This year, HRC is proud to mark National Foster Care Month with the launch of HRC Foundation and FosterClub’s #FosterEquality campaign. Throughout the month, HRC will share stories and interviews conducted by FosterClub about LGBTQ youth in foster care and agencies that are working to improve their practices with LGBTQ youth. Today, HRC is highlighting the story of Veda Cota, a youth in kinship care who experienced multiple hardships with her identities and grandmother’s illness.
Veda Cota entered the foster care system at six months old and was in the full custody of her grandmother by age two. After Veda’s grandmother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she had to learn to care for her while also balancing school responsibilities. On top of this, Veda was navigating how to be open about her sexuality.
“I was afraid coming out as a lesbian would overshadow all my other attributes - that I would eternally be looked at as ‘the lesbian’ and not as ‘the student’ or ‘the friend,’” she said. “Which is what happened. Friends were forbidden to hang out with me. I was being prejudged solely on my sexuality.”
Unfortunately, Veda’s story is not uncommon. Though identities are multi-dimensional, LGBTQ youth are often treated negatively based on their sexual orientation and gender identity alone. In HRC’s Youth Survey Report, Growing Up LGBT in America, nearly half of LGBT youth said they do not “fit in” in their community and only 49 percent believed they can be happy if the stay in the same city or town, as opposed to 75 percent of non-LGBT youth.
Despite these challenges, Veda was able to find solace in programs like Guardian Scholars at Los Angeles City College, California Youth Connection and FosterClub.
“Through these programs I found supportive adults who did not judge me, but instead accepted me and invited me into a comfortable, supportive and lovable environment” said Veda, who is currently attending Los Angeles City College.
Learning from her experiences, Veda offered a word of advice.
“I want the general public to know that LGBTQ youth that are in the child welfare system are just like every other youth that are in the system. We all go through hardships and downfalls, but we are all human,” she said. “At the end of the day, we just want someone to be by our side, support us, and let us know that we’re worth it; that we’re destined to succeed.”
HRC’s All Children – All Families project works with adoption and foster care agencies nation-wide so youth like Veda will never feel judged or isolated because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.