Supporting LGBTQ Children and Teens: Resources For Foster Parents
National research has shown that children and teens who identify as LGBTQ are over-represented in the foster care system. Young people who identify as LGBTQ enter foster care for many of the same reasons as non-LGBTQ youth in care. However, many children and teens who are LGBTQ have the added layer of trauma that comes with being rejected or mistreated because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Like all young people, children and teens who identify as LGBTQ in foster care need the support of a nurturing family to help them grow into healthy adults. Foster parents can provide this support and safe, nurturing home where children and teens feel comfortable expressing themselves and to become the person they are meant to be.
You may not know a youth’s gender identity or sexual orientation until they have spent some time in your home and trust you. Avoid making assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation. Any steps you take to make your home welcoming to a young person who is LGBTQ will benefit all children and teens in your home — both by giving the individual who is LGBTQ the freedom to express themselves and by helping heterosexual and gender-conforming children and teens learn to respect and embrace diversity.
The support your LGBTQ youth receives in your home is important. However, you also must be prepared to advocate for your youth when needed to ensure that she or he receives appropriate child welfare, health care, mental health, and education services to promote healthy development and self-esteem.
This will require foster parents to understand the child or teen’s child welfare rights confidentiality, an appropriate service plan, support in expressing their gender identity and the right to request a new caseworker. Foster parents should also ensure the child or teen’s health care providers are trained to address their needs.
In many schools, negative remarks about sexual orientation or gender identity are common from other students and even faculty or staff. Foster parents may need to work with a child or teen’s caseworker, school administrators or school board to address these problems. Gay-straight alliances, anti-bullying policies that include specific LGBTQ policies, and LGBTQ-friendly teachers and resources are effective ways to improve a young person’s experience in school.
These tips are only an overview of the advice and resources available to foster parents. Continue reading and find more resources in the “Supporting Youth LGBTQ Youth” guide published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.