Is The Texas Foster Care System Failing LGBTQ Youth?
The Texas Foster Care System Is Designed To Protect All Youth. But The System Failed One LGBTQ Youth In A Major Way!
By Cade Michals | Investigative Journalist, About News
Most can’t imagine the thought of not experiencing love from a parental figure. At age 18, Kristopher Sharp aged out of the Texas Foster Care System becoming homeless, with no skills, or job. He became one of Houston’s unspoken problems plaguing the streets of Montrose, which no one wants to talk about.
It wasn’t long after being on the streets that a ‘drug dealer’ took Sharp under his wing; and the two became lovers. Their relationship was built around abuse that often landed Sharp in the hospital. “I can tell you about the first time I felt I was loved,” Sharp says. “This is after I aged out of the foster care system.”
A few days shy of his 10th birthday, Sharp entered foster care after being removed from his home. Sharp describes how his mother was a drug user and would heat up metal hangers to lash him and his siblings.
Sharp now identifies as gay, but he says he didn’t know that as a 9-year-old boy. Sharp said he didn’t even know the meaning of the word. But the caseworker did. “Whenever I first entered Foster care, the case worker told me that it would be hard to find me a family because I was gay.” Sharp stated.
In 2014 there were 31,176 children in foster care in Texas. As of January 2015 there were 4,041 children waiting for adoptive families. There are less than 2,000 foster families. The State of Texas hires subcontractors; and children like Sharp, whom are LGBTQ are most often cared for by these contractors.
Adam McCormick, a professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin has been documenting the experiences of LGBTQ youth over the last year or so. He’s found that of the thousands of children in foster care, the ones who have it the worst are LGBTQ kids.
“The state has failed to do really what it’s intended to do – to protect youth – as well as to establish some sense of permanency,” McCormick says.
“We tend to recruit foster parents from very conservative faith-based backgrounds – churches and faith-based organizations – and so the pool of individuals who are capable of providing affirming and accepting environments, capable of empowering LGBT youth is very limited,” McCormick says.
McCormick believes it’s time for Texas to start strategically recruiting foster parents who can commit to supporting and affirming kids who are LGBTQ. But at the state level several legislative attempts to put it in the books have failed.
Sharp has since left Texas, and lives in Washington, D.C. He’s graduated college and works as a legislative aid in Congress. He’s now advocating on behalf of children in the system – and he’s found love doing it.
“I’m in a relationship with a very sweet man who is a great advocate and works all across this country, who genuinely loves me and cares about me,” Sharp says.