NACAC believes children and youth in the foster care system who are—or who are perceived to be—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender*, and questioning (LGBTQ) deserve loving and permanent families and should be afforded the same rights, services, and protections as those who are [or are perceived to be] heterosexual. Statistics show that, at a minimum, 5 to 10 percent of children and youth in care are LGBTQ. The numbers are likely much higher due to the parental abuse, neglect, and rejection too often experienced by LGBTQ children and youth. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ youth are in care solely because of their family’s reaction to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many LGBTQ youth in foster care are also members of minority groups whose cultures often support only traditional heterosexuality.
The prejudice, family rejection, and mistreatment experienced by LGBTQ youth —or those who are perceived to be LGBTQ— have a tremendous negative impact. Statistics shows that 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ and that LGBTQ youth face higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. For LGBTQ foster children and youth, discrimination, neglect, and mistreatment by peers, foster families, caseworkers, and other agency staff compound the problems facing many foster youth, resulting in higher risks of health and mental health problems, school failure, homelessness, and suicide. LGBTQ children and youth have a right to live in an environment that is safe, understanding, and supportive of their needs.
Policy and Practice Recommendations
- Programs and services for LGBTQ children and youth — Immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety of LGBTQ children and youth in care. Agencies should work to:
- seek and train foster and adoptive parents who are supportive of LGBTQ children and youth
- identify and share information about existing national, state, and community resources available to LGBTQ children and youth
- designate and equip specific foster and group homes as short-term safe havens for LGBTQ children and youth
- make all group and family foster homes safe for LGBTQ children and youth
- designate LGBTQ “ombudspersons” in child welfare offices to respond to questions and problems, and advocate for LGBTQ children and youth
NACAC strongly opposes the use of conversion or so-called reparation services that are designed to involuntarily change the sexual orientation of youth.
- Non-discrimination policies — States, provinces, tribes, and public and private agencies must adopt and enforce explicit policies prohibiting any discrimination based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV/AIDS status of children and youth in foster care, foster or adoptive parents and other members of their household, and child welfare staff.
- Parent and staff training — To ensure that non-discrimination policies are effective, all foster/adoptive parents, child welfare staff, child advocates (such as guardians ad litem, children’s attorneys, and CASAs) should be required to participate in training that addresses:
- the purpose and operation of non-discrimination policies
- sensitivity about sexual orientation and gender identity issues
- how to make supportive and sensitive placement decisions for LGBTQ children and youth
- how to non-judgmentally support children and youth who are coming out
- the availability of community-based resources for LGBTQ children and youth
- how to educate the school system and protect LGBTQ children and youth in school
- how to provide appropriate sexual health education
*“Transgender” refers to individuals (regardless of their sexual orientation) whose appearance, characteristics, or personal gender identification differs from their biological gender or traditional gender stereotypes.