Fostering LGBTQIA Youth: Ten Ways to Create a Welcoming and Inclusive Home
National research has shown that LGBTQIA youth are over-represented in the foster care system, meaning that the percentage of youth in foster care who are LGBTQIA-identified is larger than the percentage of LGBTQIA youth in the general youth population. These youth in foster care also face disparities – differences in experiences in care or treatment by the system.
All youth in foster care need nurturing homes that provide them with a safe place to process their feelings of grief and loss, freedom to express who they are, and structure to support them in becoming responsible, healthy adults. Creating a welcoming foster home for LGBTQIA youth is not much different from creating a safe and supportive home for any youth.
Consider the following suggestions to make your home a welcoming and inclusive one, whether or not a youth in your care openly identifies as LGBTQIA:
- Make it clear that slurs or jokes based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation are not tolerated in your house. Express your disapproval of these types of jokes or slurs when you encounter them in the community or media.
- Display “hate-free zone” signs or other symbols indicating an LGBTQIA-friendly environment (pink triangle, rainbow flag).
- Use gender-neutral language when asking about relationships. For example, instead of, “Do you have a girlfriend?” ask, “Is there anyone special in your life?”
- Celebrate diversity in all forms. Provide access to a variety of books, movies, and materials—including those that positively represent same-sex relationships. Point out LGBTQIA celebrities, role models who stand up for the LGBTQIA community and people who demonstrate bravery in the face of social stigma.
- Let youth in your care know that you are willing to listen and talk about anything.
- Support your youth’s self-expression through choices of clothing, jewelry, hairstyle, friends, and room decoration.
- Insist that other family members include and respect all youth in your home.
- Allow youth to participate in activities that interest them, regardless of whether these activities are stereotypically male or female.
- Educate yourself about LGBTQIA history and issues.
Get to know the community. What resources are available? Find out if there is a Gay/Straight Alliance at school, a community group for GLBT and questioning teens, a bookstore with a selection of books and magazines on GLBT issues, or a GLBT community center nearby.
Check out these additional helpful resources and customize your approach for your unique family:
Empowering you to take action on behalf of your family in your daily lives and to do so in accessible, step-by-step ways, the Family Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer in this country and their six million children.
A national organization with state and local chapters that provide education, information, and support for parents and families with LGBT family members, and referrals to LGBT community resources and services.
Providing information and support for parents and families, an annual conference for families with gender-variant and transgender children, gender identity and expression for schools and providers helping gender non-conforming and transgender children and youth.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/LGBTQyouth