Alberta’s first group home for LGBTQ children and youth anticipates its first client will move in late January.
Haven, located in Red Deer and operated by Heritage Family Services, will have bedrooms for three clients once upgrades are complete. The group home is open to children and youth, age 12 to 17, from across Alberta as well as outside the province. A 16- and a 15-year-old, both from the Edmonton area, are already scheduled to join Haven.
Shay Vanderschaeghe, program co-ordinator, said conditional licences are in place for Haven to welcome clients as early as Jan. 2, but it does take time to do the required paperwork.
“Haven is a house for LGBTQ youth who are in care. These are youth, for whatever reason, who are no longer living with their family or with any kinship guardians and are needing a place to live,” Vanderschaeghe said.
She said co-ordinating school transfers are required and Red Deer Public Schools has done some great work around sexual orientation and gender identity in its schools.
“We know that the youth that we’ll be supporting will also be supported in the school district, which is wonderful. We’re excited to be able to create this great space.”
In November, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate released its report – Speaking Out: A Special Report on LGBTQ2S+ Young People in the Child Welfare and Youth Justice Systems – recognizing the need for supportive living options for LGBTQ2S+ children and youth in foster care and group homes.
Vanderschaeghe said group homes are absolutely needed in Edmonton, Calgary and the six other major communities in Alberta. But for now, Child and Family Services and the Office of the Child Youth Advocate are not aware of any other specialized group homes besides Haven.
“It’s really hard to manage bullying in an environment where you have youth, so specializing is kind of the way to go sometimes.
“There have been programs specializing with Indigenous youth. There are programs specializing with youth with disabilities. This specialized population deserves to have some specialized programming as well.”
She said ultimately, foster care is better at providing a home-like environment, and she welcomes questions from those interested in learning about LGBTQ foster parenting.