Adopting or Fostering a Child Who Identifies as LGBTQ+
Have you wondered if you could be the right place for an LGBTQ+ youth or child to land? Join us to talk about how to be an affirming and supportive home for a child who identifies as LGBTQ+. Our guest will be Angela Weeks, the Director of the National SOGIE Center at the Institute for Innovation and Implementation. Under the Center, she directs the Center of Excellence for LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity and the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for LGBTQ2S Children and Youth in Foster Care.
In this course, we cover:
We will be discussing the important role foster and resource parents have in providing a safe, supportive, and affirming home for an LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. It discusses the unique risks they face and the important role that foster parents can play in reducing those risks. We will be using the acronym LGBTQ+ and we do so in the most inclusive sense possible of people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE.) We include the “+” sign to acknowledge the diversity and to recognize those that don’t feel specifically included in the LGBTQ+ acronym such as “gender variant” or “gender diverse.”
- Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, Native American/Alaskan Native Two-Spirit, or other diverse identity (LGBTQ+) are overrepresented in foster care (Human Rights Campaign, 2015). While approximately 5 percent of the general population is estimated to be LGBTQ+, studies estimate that about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+. Why are these young people over represented in child welfare?
- LGBTQ+ youth are 1.5 -2 times more likely to have a foster placement failure. Why?
- What does the research indicate about how sexual orientation and gender identity are formed?
- Is a child who identifies as LGBTQ+ more likely to have a mental health diagnosis or behavioral issues?
- Are LGBTQ+ youth more likely than heterosexual or cisgender young people to sexually abuse or otherwise pose a threat to others, including children.
- What are some of the issues that a child who identifies as LGBTQ+ face in addition to the issues of neglect and abuse that brought them into care. Issues unique to the LGBTQ+ community.
- How to help youth evaluate the safety of their communities, schools, social networks, and homes to decide whether to disclose their LGBTQ+ identity, when to do so, and to whom.
- Parents often think, especially with younger kids, that this is just a phase. And kids are coming out (acknowledging their sexual orientation/gender identity to themselves and others) at younger and younger ages. And there is some fluidity. So how’s a parent to know how to handle?
- Studies by the Family Acceptance Project have found that most people report being attracted to another person around age 10 and identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual by age 13 (on average). Most children have a stable sense of their gender identity by age 4
- Sexual orientation vs sexual behavior.
- How can parents create a welcoming and affirming home:
- Avoid making assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation.
- Introduce your own pronouns first. Do you have a different name that you go by. This signals that you are open to having the conversation. Ask all young people how they identify and what their pronouns are. These questions will send a message of safety and LGBTQ+ competency to youth who are unsure of whether to disclose.
- Have a zero-tolerance policy for all people in your home and extended family for slurs or jokes about gender or sexuality.
- Don’t force youth to attend activities (including religious activities, sports activities, and family gatherings) that are openly hostile or unsupportive of people with diverse sexual orientation or identity. And believe them when they tell you that the place or people are hostile.
- Don’t try to protect the youth from potential harassment by “steering” them toward hobbies seen as more typical for their gender. Allow youth to participate in activities that interest them, regardless of whether these activities are stereotypically masculine or feminine.
- Use gender-neutral language when asking about relationships. For example, instead of, “Do you have a girlfriend?” ask, “Are you dating anyone?”
- Support their self-expression through their choices of clothing, jewelry, hairstyle, friends, and room decoration.
- Celebrate diversity in all forms. Provide access to a variety of books, movies, and materials, including those that positively represent same-gender relationships. Point out LGBTQ+ celebrities, role models who stand up for the LGBTQ+ 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.
- If a youth in your care discloses their LGBTQ+ identity, respond in an affirming, supportive way, such as “Thank you for telling me. How can I support you?
- Avoid double standards: Allow them to discuss feelings of attraction and engage in age-appropriate romantic relationships, just as you would for youth who do not identify as LGBTQ+.
- Invite and welcome their LGBTQ+ friends or partner at family get togethers.
- Connect them with LGBTQ+ organizations, resources, and events. Consider seeking an LGBTQ+ adult role model for them,
- Display “hate-free zone” signs or other symbols indicating an LGBTQ-affirming environment (e.g., pink triangle, rainbow, or ally flag).
- Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth: A Guide for Foster Parents https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/lgbtqyouth.pdf
- Glossary of Terms (Human Rights Campaign)
- The National SOGIE Center .The National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, & Expression (The National SOGIE Center), provides a centralized site for accessing resources on providing culturally responsive care to children, youth, young adults with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) and their families across systems, including child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health (including school mental health), substance use systems, and housing and homelessness. https://www.sogiecenter.org/
- Family Acceptance Project® LGBTQ Youth & Family Resources To Decrease Mental Health Risks & Promote Well‐Being https://lgbtqfamilyacceptance.org/
- Learning About Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression (SOGIE) (Video)
- A Guide for Understanding, Supporting, and Affirming LGBTQI2-S Children, Youth, and Families
- Support for LGBTQ Youth Starts at Home (Video)
- Be True and Be You: A Basic Guide for LGBTQ+ Youth
- Sharing Our Lived Experiences: 22 Tips for Caring for Two-Spirit and Native LGBTQ Youth in the Child Welfare System
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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth
Image Credit: Monstera