Hugh Lane Wellness hosted Federal and Pittsburgh officials Tuesday to Celebrate Federal Rule Protecting LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

J. Coley Alston. Photo courtesy of Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation.

On Tuesday, Hugh Lane Wellness Executive Director Sarah Rosso and Program Director J. Coley Alston did a final walk-through of Hugh Lane’s space for youth in East Liberty, lining up chairs and checking the podium microphone one last time.

Soon, officials from the federal Administration for Children and Families and from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) would arrive and celebrate a huge step in Rosso and Alston’s decade of work together for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and families:  a new federal rule ensuring safe placements for all youth. 

The rule is a momentous moment for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth around the nation, and Rosso and Alston’s work is a part of the story behind it. 

It will be in effect starting July 1, and standardizes “safe and appropriate” placements for all children and youth in foster care; as well as defining Designated Placements as placements that meet specific measures of providing protections for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth.

Sarah Rosso. Photo courtesy of Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation.

At the event on Tuesday, representatives from the Administration for Children and Families and Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato spoke about Hugh Lane’s work and the importance of the new rule.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families Jeff Hild named Rosso and Alston’s work at Hugh Lane as a model of care that informed and shaped the standards laid out in the rule. 

Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families Rebecca Jones Gaston is a driving force behind this work as well.

“There’s so much research saying that, when you can’t be your full self, that actually can cause harm and make growing into a thriving adult really challenging,” she said. “[I want] to see…the support for these young people and families just be the norm, where we almost forget that it’s a special requirement.”

Providing holistically supportive services for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and their caregivers is at the heart of the work Rosso and Alston have partnered on for years, which they now co-lead at Hugh Lane, together with Allegheny County DHS. From building DHS providers’ LGBTQ2SIA+ knowledge and competency, to supporting caregivers in creating affirming environments for youth and children in their care, to connecting youth with social support, behavioral health interventions, and leadership opportunities, Hugh Lane works to have supports available that address the whole family.

Rosso and Alston are ready to see these supports available to youth across the country. The new rule makes that the goal. 

Said Rosso, “With the current backlash and cultural environment, there’s always more work to do to ensure the health of LGBTQ2SIA+ communities – but it’s so important that we take these moments to celebrate the wins. And this rule will be life-changing for so many LGBTQ2SIA children and youth. Today, we celebrate that.”