Illinois agency urges foster parents to take in LGBT youth

Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. File photo.

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois' child welfare agency is urging more foster parents to take in homeless LGBT youth, describing the situation as a desperate one for thousands of young people.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services held a recruitment seminar Saturday to provide prospective foster parents with information about the process. It said it was specifically looking for foster and adoptive families within Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The event was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"We desperately need more adults in the LGBTQ community and allies to help foster our LGBTQ youth in care," said Jane Kelly, the department's statewide LGBT coordinator. "Many of our youth come into care when they are told to leave their homes by their own families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"And while it's sad and simply not right, we as a community need to step forward and help foster, adopt or mentor our youth."

There are an estimated 25,000 homeless youths in Illinois in any given year, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Illinois Department of Human Service. Nationally, up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Researchers attribute the disproportionate figures to factors such as family rejection, employment discrimination and mental health problems caused by stigmatization and discrimination.

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The Gayly - 7/9/2015 @ 12:13 p.m. CDT.