Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare through Cross-System Collaboration

The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s (CSSP) newest policy report highlights the need to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in child welfare by building cross-system collaborations. Youth who identify as LGBTQ or gender-nonconforming are over-represented in child welfare, and they experience higher instances of homelessness and poor developmental outcomes. They face increased risk of placement instability while in foster care, higher rates of poor mental and behavioral health outcomes and disproportionate involvement with the juvenile justice system.

The over-representation is even starker for LGBTQ youth of color. The data on LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, demonstrate a need to address the disparities within and across multiple systems and to advocate for change through data-informed policies. For example, the author’s found research indicating that:

  • 22.8 percent of children in out of home care identified as LGBQ.
  • 57 percent of LGBQ youth in out of home care are youth of color.
  • 30 percent of youth in foster care reported physical violence by family members after disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity

Authored by CSSP Policy Director Megan Martin, Policy and Research Assistant Rosalynd Erney and former CSSP intern Leann Down, the report examines the disparities that exist between LGBTQ youth and their non-LGBTQ peers, as well as the compounding effects these factors have in relation to other intersecting identities, including race, ethnicity, culture and language. Interspersed throughout the paper are several vignettes capturing a sample of the 53 youth who participated in focus groups conducted by CSSP.

The report offers several policy strategies to better support LGBTQ youth and improve child welfare under three general categories:

  • Ensuring all youth have the resources necessary for healthy development
  • Promoting the safety of LGBTQ youth
  • Committing to achieving permanency for LGBTQ youth

Leaders, policymakers and service providers in child welfare, health, mental health, education, housing and other systems have an opportunity to improve outcomes for youth through collaborative and interdisciplinary efforts. With research indicating clear relationships between multiple system enrollment, multigenerational involvement and overlap between target populations within each system, cross-systems approaches are needed to promote more effective and efficient practice implementation.

Population of focus: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth

Link to resource: Out of the Shadows: Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare through Cross-System Collaboration

Date: 2016

Organization: Center for the Study of Social Policy