Mission & History

True Colors is a non-profit organization that 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 6,000 people annually, organizes the largest LGBT youth conference in the country with more than 3,000 attendees and manages the state’s only LGBT mentoring program. True Colors has been spotlighted by both national and local media for their expertise in LGBTI youth issues.



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 LGBT 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.


That first conference, held in March 1994, attracted 160 teachers, social service and mental health care providers, and 90 LGBT youth.


The Conference was expanded to two (2) days to accommodate the more than 600 participants.


Connecticut becomes only the 4th state in the country to protect LGBT 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 LGBT adults and families.


Children from the Shadows changed the 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).


True Colors acquires federal non-profit status.


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.


True Colors launches CT’s first and still one of the nation’s only — mentoring programs for LGBT youth in out-of-home care. In 2008, the program expanded to include a group mentoring component. In 2012, we are DCF’s largest provider of mentoring, with one-on-one and group mentoring as well as weekly social/recreational programming for LGBT and ally youth across CT.


True Colors launches its first ever Queer Academy, a summer program for LGBT youth in greater Hartford


As we move into our 3rd decade, 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 LGBT people are welcomed, valued and affirmed as full and productive members of society.