CWLA Presents Experts, Ideas and Data Gaps on LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

Posted August 7, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young people

The Child Wel­fare League of Amer­i­ca recent­ly released a spe­cial issue of its Child Wel­fare Jour­nal that is focused on young peo­ple in fos­ter care who are les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al, trans­gen­der or ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­ti­ty (LGBTQ).

Com­posed of a dozen aca­d­e­m­ic arti­cles, the pub­li­ca­tion under­scores the stark chal­lenges that these young peo­ple face and the press­ing need for more data as well as best prac­tices aimed at keep­ing these youth emo­tion­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly safe while ensur­ing their long-term well-being.

Jef­frey Poiri­er, a Casey Foun­da­tion senior asso­ciate, con­tributed to the pub­li­ca­tion, titled Sex­u­al Ori­en­ta­tion, Gen­der Identity/​Expression and Child Wel­fare. In addi­tion to co-edit­ing the issue, Poiri­er co-authored one of its arti­cles — an exam­i­na­tion of the expe­ri­ences of gay and les­bian youth involved in the Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tives Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port™.

His arti­cle, which shares data culled from a sur­vey of near­ly 2,500 pro­gram youth, indi­cates that young peo­ple who are in fos­ter care and gay or les­bian are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence home­less­ness and numer­ous child wel­fare place­ments. These youth are also less like­ly than their peers to have adult men­tors, accord­ing to the data.

This data-dri­ven per­spec­tive — that gay and les­bian youth in care face a unique­ly steep climb to adult­hood — is an over­ar­ch­ing theme of the issue. But the col­lec­tion of arti­cles also shine a light on how child wel­fare lead­ers can improve poli­cies, prac­tices and pro­grams to do bet­ter,” says Poirier.

One place to start mak­ing improve­ments, accord­ing to Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group Direc­tor Tracey Feild, is to begin count­ing youth in fos­ter care who are les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al, trans­gen­der or ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­ti­ty. The Foun­da­tion recent­ly made this switch, adding sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­ti­ty prompts to its sur­vey of Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port par­tic­i­pants nationwide.

Feild, who penned the publication’s fore­word, describes fill­ing in these data blanks with a clear sense of urgency. We can­not con­tin­ue to remain in the dark, with­out nation­al data on the preva­lence in fos­ter care of chil­dren who are LGBTQ and infor­ma­tion about their out­comes and expe­ri­ences,” she writes. The stakes are too high.”

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