Whatever It Takes: Making a More Inclusive Agency
Today’s post is written by Kelly Fitzgerald, a Quality Assurance Analyst with Uplift Family Services. Her role, based out of our Sacramento office, includes ensuring that all agency programs, policies and procedures, and workspaces offer a welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone.
The LGBT+ community and its allies have made great strides towards equality over the past few decades, but there is still much work ahead of us. There are still eleven states that allow child welfare agencies to refuse services to children and families who identify as LBGT+ while citing their beliefs. This is only one of numerous laws that affect youth and prospective or current resource families (formerly called foster families) who are LGBT+ in many states. Thankfully, however, this is not the case in California and especially at Uplift Family Services, where inclusivity is at the forefront of our services and programs.
I have been working at Uplift Family Services for over a year now, and I am amazed at the dedication and emphasis the agency places on LGBT+ inclusivity in its programs and services, but moreover, in its core values. The agency works tirelessly to create a safe environment where youth, families, and staff feel welcome and everyone is up-to-date with SOGIE and LGBT+ standards.
I am proud to announce that, as of February 2020, the agency has received the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) certification for Innovative Inclusion Tier of Recognition for 2020, a distinction the agency has achieved after being certified Solid Foundation Tier every year since 2011. Achieving the Innovative Inclusion Tier of Recognition means that our agency provides the most up-to-date, evidence-based training, keeps all non-discriminatory policies and procedures current, uses inclusive language in recruitment, is actively involved with LGBT+ advocacy for youth and families, and so much more.
In the past year, staff attended more in-person trainings on LGBT+ issues, while the agency updated electronic health records to reflect LGBT+ and SOGIE-inclusive language and hired staff, such as myself, to address LGBT+ issues within our agency directly. We hope to expand efforts on an on-going basis to continually improve our agency and services.
Currently, the Foster Care and Adoption Services team works on these important topics on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis. The clinical managers and I frequently report to the regional managers on new trainings, legislation, and resources to support LGBT+ youth throughout the agency. In turn, the regional managers report on the work they are doing to support their team, work to increase knowledge of already established LGBT+ community resources, and brainstorm ways to make the offices more inclusive through signage, brochures, staff communication, website imagery and language, and more. These meetings are helpful for our regional managers and they report that their staff are eager to attend HRC trainings, something that I have not always experienced at other agencies.
The Foster Care and Adoptions team was unable to celebrate the Innovative Inclusion Tier of Recognition at HRC’s annual event due to the coronavirus pandemic, but staff made the best of it. We attended the virtual event: HRC 2020 Celebrating Everyday Change-Makers in Child Welfare, and then celebrated with our own virtual event shortly thereafter.
I am proud to have been a part of all these efforts within the agency and am honored to work alongside the people who put this important topic at the forefront of their daily tasks. Going forward, I have applied to be on the team to be directly involved in policy and decision-making that directly impacts some of the communities in which Uplift Family Services works. I look forward to the rest of 2020 and working towards a more inclusive 2021 and beyond!
If you are interested in learning more about inclusivity in your office, visit the HRC website. You can also read our Foster Care FAQs to get more information about fostering a child or teen or apply to be a resource parent through our online portal.