Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth Who Are Adopted
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and other diverse identities and expressions, including Two-Spirit (LGBTQ+) youth are overrepresented in out-of-home care and have consistently faced more obstacles and challenges that contribute to higher rates of depression, homelessness, and suicide than youth in care who do not identify as LGBTQ+. Some states are trying to deny LGBTQ+ youth the freedom to express their identities and access to necessary affirming health care. More than ever, it is crucial that adoptive parents and child welfare professionals work together toward creating an affirming and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ children and youth in their care.
Listening to the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth and accepting their identity are two of the best ways to show support. Compared with their LGBTQ+ peers who have support systems in place, youth who have experienced high levels of rejection for being LGBTQ+ are:
- More than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide.
- Nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression.
- More than three times as likely to use illegal drugs.
- More than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs
Become a safe place where LGBTQ+ youth can explore their identity and express their wants and needs. These youth have likely had multiple placements and faced discrimination both outside and inside the child welfare system. Even if you are unfamiliar with LGBTQ+ culture or don't know what to say, approaching new perspectives with curiosity and compassion can be a good place to start. Child Welfare Information Gateways' Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth: A Guide to Foster Parents offers several tips on creating an affirming home for youth:
- Make it clear that slurs or jokes based on LGBTQ+ identity are not tolerated in your house.
- Support self-expression through their hairstyle, clothing, friends, or other choices.
- Allow youth to participate in activities that interest them—regardless of whether these activities are stereotypically masculine or feminine.
- Ask them how they would like to be addressed (names, pronouns) and use those terms.
- Respect their choice of whom they want to disclose their LGBTQ+ identity with.
Other ways include connecting LGBTQ+ youth with resources designed for them, educating adoptive parents on the lifelong impact their behavior can have, and identifying and incorporating practices and programs that utilized the expertise of lived experience in their development.
3 Resources to Create a Supportive & Affirming Child Welfare Practice
For more information, visit at https://www.childwelfare.gov.
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