True Colors works to create a world where youth of all genders and orientations are valued and affirmed. Our programs include one-on-one and group mentoring; school based youth advocacy and leadership development; the production of the largest LGBTQ youth conference in the country; professional cultural competency training; and the management of a state wide task force focused on the needs of LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care.
True Colors works with other social service agencies, schools, organizations, and within communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are both recognized and competently met.
The organization trains more than 5,000 people annually, organizes the largest LGBTQ youth conference in the country with more than 3500 attendees and manages the state’s only LGBTQ mentoring program. True Colors has been spotlighted by both national and local media for their expertise in LGBTQ youth issues.
1992 Robin McHaelen, Founder and Executive Director was studying for her Master’s degree in Social Work at the UCONN School of Social Work. She began organizing the first “Children from the Shadows” (CFS) conference – Children from the Shadows: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth at Risk. The University of Connecticut, School of Social Work approved the idea of creating a conference about LGBTQ youth and the risks associated with sexual minority status. After meeting with representatives from various grassroots and mainstream organizations, one of the first agencies to come on board as a supporter was the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families. The Department of Education, Mental Health and Addiction Services soon followed. Both Connecticut Teachers Unions came on board, as did more than 30 grassroots community organizations.
1994 – That first conference, held in March 1994, attracted 160 teachers, social service and mental health care providers, and 90 LGBTQ youth.
1996 – The Conference was expanded to two (2) days to accommodate the more than 600 participants.
1997 – Connecticut becomes only the 4th state in the country to protect LGBTQ youth from harassment. True Colors was awarded a grant through the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective for the creation and administration of Connecticut’s first Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services Bureau. For the first time in the organization’s history, we were able to fund a part-time Executive Director position and to expand our scope to include LGBTQ adults and families.
1998 – Children from the Shadows changed its name to True Colors Inc, Sexual Minority Youth and Family Service of CT and expanded its focus to include LGBT families. The mission was also expanded: “To improve and enrich the lives of sexual minority people through support, education and advocacy in each of the systems necessary to their development as full and productive members of society is fulfilled, and people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, the gender of their life partners or their gender presentation. True Colors, Inc. was incorporated in 1998 True Colors was the largest LGBT youth issues conference in the country with more than 1,000 participants and we moved to a bigger venue (the University of Hartford).
1999 True Colors acquires federal non-profit status.
2001 – True Colors strengthens our existing alliance with the State Department of Children and Families and created the Safe Harbors Project designed to identify and resolve gaps in services for LGBT youth in Child Welfare. The project now includes training, foster parent recruitment, a state-wide task force, and with start-up funding provided by the Connecticut Health Foundation, Connecticut’s first LGBT mentoring program.
2005 – True Colors launches CT’s first– and still one of the nation’s only — mentoring programs for LGBQ youth in out-of-home care. In 2008, the program expanded to include a group mentoring component. The group program provides weekly social and recreational activities for LGBTQ youth in the program across CT. In addition, True Colors provides activities every Friday evening during the school year (September – June) at the True Colors office in Hartford along with a program once a month in Bridgeport,
2011 True Colors launches its first ever Queer Academy, a summer program for LGBTQ youth in greater Hartford
2018 True Colors celebrated its 25th Anniversary Conference with thousands of youth, educators, social workers, clinician, clergy and family members.
As we move into our next 25 years, True Colors stands for full equality for LGBT youth, adults and families. We are committed to the work of social justice as an anti-racist organization. And with youth in the lead, we expect to move into our next twenty years with a continued passion to ensure that LGBTQ people are welcomed, valued and affirmed as full and productive members of society.