Supporting LGBTQ Youth

June is National Pride Month. As resource families, we have a unique role in ensuring that LGBTQ youth in foster care receive the respect and care they need to heal and thrive. LGBTQ youth are even more vulnerable than non-LGBTQ youth in foster care. Alarming statistics from the Children’s Partnership LGBTQ Children and Youth Fact Sheet include:

“LGBTQ+ youth are 3X more likely to live in a foster home or group home, or awaiting placement than non-LGBTQ+ youth.”1

“California LGBTQ+ youth are TWICE AS LIKELY to experience HOMELESSNESS and live in UNSTABLE HOUSING, like sharing a home with more than one family, living with relatives, or staying in a hotel, shelter, campground or other kind of transitional or temporary housing.”1

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth are overrepresented in foster care for reasons including homophobic and transphobic parents. Resource parents have the great opportunity to intervene in the lives of these youth, and create a safe and stable environment for them. LGBTQ youth who have faced judgement, abuse, and neglect must find safety and stability in their resource family home so that their trauma is not intensified.

Support is not just putting up a Pride flag, posting on social media, or even defending the youth against homophobic and transphobic people. Support includes altering your language, instead of asking if they have a “boyfriend/girlfriend” use more gender inclusive terms, such as “partner.” Instead of assuming the identity of the youth based on their gender expression, ask them “how would you like me to address you?” Being inclusive and supportive in regard to the way the youth desires to dress or style their hair, by taking them shopping or helping them try different hair styles. All of these factors play into the development of LGBTQ youth. Supportive parents and caregivers that allow the youth to express themselves in a safe and conducive environment will take years off of internal struggles.

Many LGBTQ youth relive their teenage years in their 20’s. They did not have the space to express themselves in their teenage years and are forced to live out their true self later in life, which can cause a great deal of trauma. It is not always about understanding the youth, but listening to them and acting as they have asked. Educate yourself by learning the stories of others like them. Making your home an all inclusive space for these kids can prevent them from enduring more trauma than they already have.

Affirm them. Support them, regardless of your personal beliefs. Encourage them to be themselves. Embrace them. Empower them.

Check out Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care for more tips on how to support your youth! A townhall meeting on “Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care” will be held on June 30 from 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm. REGISTER

 

By LaNaya Blackwell, Policy Assistant, California Alliance of Caregivers

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