1. Are you voting November 4?
2. Have you ever thought about volunteering to be a friend or mentor to a youth?
If the answer to question one is yes, you can support LGBTQ youth (and families) with one of your votes on Election Day. Franklin County Children Services, which provides services to kids who have experienced abuse or neglect and their families, has a renewal levy – Issue 4 – on the upcoming ballot. I want you to vote FOR Issue 4.
If the answer to question two is yes, you should not only vote FOR Issue 4, you should contact Franklin County Children Services. I want you to become a volunteer.
What does Issue 4 have to do with LGBTQ youth?
- LGBTQ youth disproportionately experience neglect or abuse from their parents or other family members. A Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund report states that over 30 percent of LGBTQ youth experience neglect or abuse from their family of origin.
- LGBTQ youth are much more likely to be homeless. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that over 20 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. A Williams Institute study puts the number closer to 40 percent.
- LGBTQ youth are more likely to be truant from school or drop out due to bullying and harassment, which often leads to engagement with the child welfare system.
How LGBTQ-friendly is Franklin County Children Services?
- Every newly hired employee at FCCS – including maintenance, IT and office staff – receives three hours of training on working with LGBTQ youth and families as part of their orientation.
- FCCS has a strong volunteer program that matches adults with youth in the agency’s care in a one-on-one friendship/mentorship relationship. Over 400 adults are currently matches with FCCS kids. FCCS has welcomed LGBTQ volunteers for over 25 years – eons before many other youth-serving organizations.
- FCCS also encourages fostering and adoption by LGBTQ people and has for many years. The agency also makes training on LGBTQ issues available to foster and adoptive parents.
The good news about Issue 4: It’s a renewal of a levy passed in 2004 that expires at the end of 2014. So no new tax dollars.
The not so good news about volunteering: Even with over 400 adults matched with kids under the care of Franklin County Children Services, several hundred additional kids do not have a volunteer. So you are needed.
I speak from experience. I have been volunteering as an out gay man with Franklin County Children Services for over 20 years, and I have been matched with six youth during that time. I am just one of numerous out LGBTQ adults volunteering with Franklin County Children Services, and individually and together, we are making a difference for all kinds of kids in Franklin County, including the far too many LGBTQ kids who have experienced abuse and neglect.
On November 4, support LGBTQ kids – and non-LGBTQ kids, too! - by voting FOR Issue 4. And today, you can take another step toward aiding kids who need a role model and friend by learning more about Franklin County Children Services’ volunteer programs.
Jim Ryan has been volunteering with Franklin County Children Services for over 26 years.