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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

True Colors, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Lesbian & Gay Rights, LGBTQ

Mission: True Colors works to create a world where youth, adults and families of all sexual orientations and gender identities are valued and affirmed. We challenge all forms of oppression through education, training, advocacy, youth leadership development, mentoring and direct services to youth and those responsible for their well-being.

Results: In 2009, True Colors Executive Director, Robin McHaelen was chosen by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Lambda Legal Education and Defense fund as one of the two professionals to design and conduct a national master training program for child welfare professionals across the country. The training has been published by NASW and is available on the web as “Moving the Margins: Curriculum for Child Welfare Services with LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care.” In addition, True Colors staff trained more than 2,400 educators, social workers, clinicians, health care providers, students and others across CT.

Target demographics: LGBT youth, their families and the systems that support them.

Programs: True colors' annual conference began as a field work project for its founder and current executive director in 1994 and its now the largest and most comprehensive lgbt youth issues conference in the nation. More than 3,000 youth, educators, social workers, clinicians, family members and clergy participate in more than 150 workshops, films, activities and events over the course of the 2 or 3 day event. School groups participate from more than half of the communities in ct, from across the northeast and nationally. The conference is open to the public and provides up to 15 continuing education credits for professional participants.

the safe harbor project is a public/private partnership between true colors, the ct state department of children and the ct association of foster and adoptive parents targeting the unique concerns and needs of lgbt youth in out-of-home care. The safe harbor project's mission is to ensure the safety, support and nurturance of all children and youth, regardless of their race, inherent sexuality, gender identity or expression by ensuring culturally competent, unbiased and affirming service by all dcf staff and its contracted providers. The safe harbor project includes a state-wide, policy-focused task force that meets monthly; staff and provider training to approximately 400 youth-serving professionals annually; foster parent recruitment for adolescents regardless of their gender or sexuality as well as individual case consultation. We provide intervention and mediation on behalf of approximately 75 youth annually, resulting in the creation of new foster homes, staff development and improved services. We provide interventions and mediation on behalf of 150 youth in the mentoring program, but we also work with directly approximately 200 youth in the youth development program and train approximately 2,400 helping professionals per year.

true colors provides connecticut's only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (lgbt) one-on-one and group youth mentoring program. Bringing the benefits of mentoring directly to nearly 100 youth from across the state of connecticut. In addition to one-on-one mentoring with trained and screened adults, this program provides weekly group activities such as game nights, movie nights, dances, etc. These activities provide participating youth the opportunity for healthly peer interactions and social development - sadly lacking for most of the youth we serve.

we work directly with approximately 200 youth in our youth leadership and gay/straight alliance (gsa) programming. This work includes the provision of on-site 6-week activist institutes, annual gsa summits; direct advocacy on behalf of lgbt youth in school based settings; and policy work with various state agencies. In addition, true colors provides cultural competency training for approximately 2400 professionals per year.

Community Stories

9 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a mentor and involved with True Colors for a few years now and this organization is top notch in the quality of training, care and expertise offered to the children they protect, the community they serve and the public they seek to educate. As a mentor, I have extended myself and become a living, breathing, positive representation of a future for our LGBT youth. I have also heard stories and been witness to the resiliency of our youth, when given the right tools of love, support and affirmation for their existence.

34

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors is a group that has embraced the LGBTQI kids that get lost in the system. Few existing social organizations are able to fund or support programs where kids are labeled anything other than what society wants them to be. Many church groups can't handle LGBTQI youth because they have a need to change kids to what the church wants them to be, and when they can't- youth are cast away for having the courage to be themselves. True Colors embraces the youth of it's program. No one is told to be anything except themselves. The ability True Colors staff has to see each individual and treat their soul amazes me. If I had to name the number one service they provide- it would be acceptance tied with Love for first place. I decided to become a mentor for this very reason. I am impressed with the amount of community outreach True Colors does, from School GSA's, (which I might add provided youth with scholarship opportunities and information), to an amazing (yearly) national conference, to a variety of arts, entertainment, and spiritual groups. It is an honor to volunteer with this group!

35

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors provides and outstanding service to the youth that seek it out by supporting them and affirming their worth as individuals regardless of sexual orientation. Further, True Colors provides and outstanding service to all organizations in the state of CT that serve youth by advocating for lgbtq youth and assisting organizations in understanding the needs of such youth.

46

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors opened my eyes to the LGBT world. The 2007 youth conference helped me realize that you know it's okay to be proud. I don't have to hide or be in the shadows. True colors, INC has given me a voice and the courage to do great things in the LGBT commnity. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be sitting typing here. They have inspired me to do such great things and I'm extremely proud to know the peoplw who run True Colors, their volunteers, and the 100s of youth they inspire.

44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have never seen an organization so intimately involved with their mission and so committed to the people they serve. Their tiny staff somehow finds a way to make an enormous difference for hundreds (thousands?) of LGBTQIA... kids in Connecticut and beyond every year. What makes True Colors different from many other organizations is the utter honesty with which they operate. They recruit dedicated volunteers by being unabashedly honest about what will be expected of them; they are honest with the kids they serve when helping them try to make the right decisions; and they advocate honesty in their community. With this honest approach, they pull off the biggest, greatest LGBTQI Youth Conference in the country. Going to that conference is like going home to the family you always wish you had. I am so proud to be involved with this organization. Every activity provides a first-hand account of lives being changed, if not saved.

44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Any organization that aspires to serve adolescents had better have its act together, and True Colors has a very together act. Life ain't a cabaret, it's a three ring circus. True Colors handles its various programs and services with grace, joy, and professionalism, performing a juggling act while crossing a tightrope on a unicycle! It engages sexual minority youth, their families, their friends, and their allies and advocates. The True Colors annual conference is an astonishingly rich service to Connecticut, and the ongoing services that the True Colors organization provides (like adult/youth mentoring and mentoring training) are invaluable.

42

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The best non-profits are mission focussed with strong professional practices and standards and with healthy personal commitment from leadership and staff. While I have been around many good non-profits, I think True Colors may be the best of the lot.

30

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors is officially a conference for sexual and gender minority youth. I suppose that's correct, but to me it's so much more than that. I first attended the conference when I was in high school, not so long ago. The next year I was in the fray, helping plan and volunteering. Working with True Colors has been my way of sharing the great fortune I've had in my life with youth who have not been so lucky. Many of the children who attend True Colors are not accepted for being who they are and the conference is one of the few places where they can really be themselves, and I think that is a beautiful thing.

31

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with True Colors for over 10 years. Their annual youth conference alone is possibly one of the most powerful experiences I have had in my lifetime (of over 50 years). True Colors works diligently to help LGBTQQII youth develop their self image and dignity. They give youth who often feel marginalized and on the fringe of their social circles a chance to be part of a thriving social network. Thru their year-round mentoring program, True Colors gives support to those young people who might otherwise be ignored and left to founder in the layers of bureaucracy. I applaud Robin McHaelan and her staff for thinking beyond their budgets, and structures, and capabilities to enabling the impossible to be done.