Teacher explaining science experiment to children

AFFIRM.ME. is the practice model developed to support LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning +) young people who encounter the Cuyahoga County Ohio child welfare system (Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services or DCFS)

  • Safe Identification- DCFS staff and partners work to create a safe, confidential, and welcoming environment for youth to self-identify as LBGTQ+. This helps to ensure DCFS accurately assesses their safety, places them with an affirming caregiver, and provides affirming resources and services, while keeping their SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) confidential, if the young person prefers.
  • Pride Caregiver Network- DCFS seeks foster parents, kinship caregivers, adoptive parents, and congregate care providers who are open and eager to care for youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and will provide a safe and supported experience for them while in foster care. These caregivers receive additional training (AFFIRM Caregivers) and have the opportunity to act as mentors to other foster parents.
  • Youth Acceptance Project (YAP)- YAP is a contracted service provided by community partner FrontLine Services to assist caregivers and family members in moving along the acceptance spectrum when a young person in their care (or returning to their care) comes out as LGBTQ+. This program assists caregivers and family members in understanding a youth’s diverse SOGIE, meets caregivers where they are, helps them advocate for their youth, provides support to the young person, and aids in improving relationships.

DCFS Staff and Community Resources



Girl smiling on car hood

A disproportionate number of young people involved with child welfare identify as LGBTQ+

  • 3-8% of youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+ Human Rights Watch (2001). Hatred in the Hallways: Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in U.S. schools. New York: Human Rights Watch
  • 19% of youth in child welfare identify at LGBTQ+ Wilson, B., Cooper, K., Kastanis, A., Nezhad, S. (2014). Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Foster care: Assessing Disproportionality and Disparities in Los Angeles. The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. LA LGBT Center RISE Program
  • 32% of young people surveyed in 2017 in Cuyahoga County identified as LGBTQ+ Read more about this survey that replicated the LA RISE study and the experiences of young LGBTQ+ people in DCFS custody The Cuyahoga Youth Count  Matarese, M., Greeno, E., Weeks, A., Hammond, P. (2021). The Cuyahoga youth count: A report on LGBTQ+ youth’s experience in foster care. Baltimore, MD: The Institute for Innovation & Implementation, University of Maryland School of Social Work

LGBTQ+ Children and Youth are at greater risk for:

  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Neglect and Rejection
  • Drug use
  • Suicide attempts and completion
  • Mental health concerns
  • Homelessness
  • Bullying and Victims of Violence
  • Harassment, Microaggressions, and Discrimination
  • Academic challenges
  • Increased school sanctions

LGBTQ+ Young People and their Adult Supports Need Affirming Crisis Supports

If you are thinking about suicide, reach out to someone you trust, your doctor, or the contact numbers below for free, confidential, and immediate support.

Crisis intervention resources for LGBTQ youth and their caregivers include:

What do LGBTQ+ Young People Need to Thrive?

92% of LGBTQ youth believe they can be a happy adult when they have a high level of family acceptance (Ryan, Family Acceptance project, 2009)

According to the minority stress model, mental health disparities among LGBTQ+ youth result from increased experiences of discrimination and rejection from others (Meyers, 2003).

LGBTQ+ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the last year. The Trevor Project National Survey 2019 (The Trevor Project, 2019)

Tools for Other Child Welfare and Partner Organizations to Implement AFFIRM.ME.  


circle logo with blue, green, yellow and red quadrants with words Affirm Me in black

Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) participated as one of four national local implementation sites selected for a federal grant from 2017-2022 and our project was the AFFIRM.ME. Program. DCFS collaborated with Kinnect and Case Western Reserve University to design services that will improve placement stability, well-being, and permanency for children and youth with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE). This grant was funded by the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability and Permanency for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Two-Spirit Children and Youth in Foster Care (QIC-LGBTQ2S) at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work. The QIC-LGBTQ2S was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau under grant #90CW1145. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funders, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


A Place 4 Me

A system of support for young people who age out of foster care.

Pride Caregiver Network

The Pride Caregiver Network provides affirming care for LGBTQ2S youth in Cuyahoga County custody.

Program Location

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