Philanthropy Friday: Devereux on Its Recent Teamup With HRC

Every Friday we introduce you to a local LGBT nonprofit in Philadelphia. This week: Learn about Devereux‘s recent teamup with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families project, which works to “promote LGBT cultural competency among child welfare agencies.”

Who are you? Leah Yaw, senior vice president for External Affairs at Devereux (pictured, right), one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit providers of behavioral healthcare in the country. We serve more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health challenges every year at programs in 13 states. Devereux’s service continuum includes psychiatric hospital care, residential and day treatment programs, community-based group homes, respite care, supervised apartments, foster care, special education day schools, and supported employment services.

Do you offer services specifically to the LGBT community? I am very proud of some of our most recent program developments including … our partnership with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to help ensure Devereux is both the employer and behavioral healthcare provider of choice for the LGBTQ community.

How did that come about? Six years ago, our Devereux programs in Arizona partnered with HRC’s All Children—All Families project, to ensure our programs in that state are LGBTQ-welcoming and -inclusive. The process was transformative, not just for our center in Arizona, but for our entire organization. We created an LGBTQ competency task force with representatives from across Devereux, with the goal of establishing our organization as both the behavioral healthcare provider and employer of choice for LGBTQ individuals and their families.

Why do you think it’s important for Devereux to get involved? The statistics are compelling. A recent study by our partners at the HRC found that LGBTQ teens are twice as likely as their non-LGBTQ peers to be bullied at school, to be physically assaulted and to use drugs and alcohol as a result of the stress and isolation they experience. CDC studies indicate LGBTQ teens are also twice as likely to attempt suicide. More needs to be done to support the good social and emotional health and overall wellbeing of the LGBTQ community.

What’s Devereux’s shining moment to date? It’s impossible to choose just one, really. In 2012, Devereux celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. Considering the estimated 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the U.S. today, and the fact that between 10 and 20 percent of nonprofits cease operations every year, 100 years of service to our nation’s children and adults with social, emotional and learning differences is a wonderful legacy.

If a check for $1 million found its way to my doorstep … I could make a very compelling argument to use the gift to fund the expansion of our specialty programs serving very vulnerable populations, like young adults with autism transitioning out of the more structured and supported environment of home and school into what can be the very isolating and unsupported adult world. When you spend time in our programs caring for children and teens who have been commercially sexually trafficked, and see them healing and planning for the future, it’s hard to imagine spending the gift doing anything but expanding those programs. When you meet one of our LGBTQ foster families preparing to adopt the child they’ve nurtured back to health after a very traumatic start in life, investing the money in the expansion of our therapeutic foster care programs is hard to argue against.

Special events coming up? Devereux Pennsylvania will host its annual Golf and Tennis Classic Tuesday June 2nd on both golf courses and the grass tennis courts at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and at Whitemarsh Country Club. We are particularly excited for this year’s annual Devereux PA Hope Gala to be held on October 31st. This elegant black-tie, Into the Woods-themed Halloween extravaganza will be followed by a midnight concert featuring an exciting surprise artist. It’s going to be fantastic.

Are there ways I can help without giving money? One of the most important things everyone can do is to learn more about intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues, and to be an advocate in ending what is still a very prevalent social stigma associated with both. No one should be afraid or ashamed to seek services for themselves or a loved one, and we all must take an active role in ending stigma.  I would also encourage everyone to learn about cultural competency and creating welcoming and affirming environments for individuals of the LGBTQ community. While collective awareness and cultural competency is growing, the LGBTQ community still faces hurdles—it is the next equal rights issue for coming generations. At Devereux, we offer a number of volunteer opportunities, which help advance our work and support the individuals we care for.

How can I donate money? You can donate in multiple ways, by visiting us online here; by mail to 444 Devereux Drive, Villanova, PA 19085, or by calling our Development Office at 610-542-3173.