Protecting the Rights and Providing Appropriate Services to LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Out-of-Home Care - Minnesota

Date: January 2023

Rights of LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Foster Care

Citation: Admin. Code § 2960.0050; DHS-6500, Ch. 5

A youth in out-of-home care has the right to be free from bias and harassment regarding race, gender, age, disability, spirituality, and sexual orientation.

In policy: All children, regardless of their race, national origin, economic status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, national origin, and HIV status, deserve to be respected, cared for, and supported by county social workers, foster families, and/or residential care facility staff. The importance of respecting a youth's self-identity concerning sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be overstated. A lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth who experiences disrespect or bias from facility staff or agency social workers is at greater risk of being bullied, harassed, isolated, depressed, and/or suicidal.

All staff within residential facilities should be ready to talk with incoming youth who self-identify as LGBTQ about their privacy and safety considerations. The conversation should be open and honest and include the following topics:

  • Preferred name and pronouns
  • Options for housing or sleeping arrangements
  • Privacy in showers and bathrooms
  • Safety concerns and confidentiality

Social workers should ensure that confidentiality measures are in place when referring youth to a facility. Confidentiality is important and is even more critical to stress with youth identifying as LGBTQ. These youth may or may not be out or may only be out to certain individuals. It is up to a youth to determine to whom and how they come out. Social workers should stress to residential facility staff that it is critical that confidentiality and respect be honored in the way that an LGBTQ youth requests.

To ensure respectful services for transgender youth, social workers need to do the following:

  • Remember that transgender youth have the same rights as all youth. They should not be held to stricter standards due to their gender identity.
  • Call the youth they are working with by their preferred name. Ask them what name they prefer to be called. Do not assume it is the name that is in their case file or on their legal identification.
  • Use the correct pronouns (he, she, etc.) that a youth wants.

Supports for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Care

Citation: DHS-6500, Ch. 5

Youth have a legally enforceable right to safety while in foster care. This right includes, among other things, protection against threats to a youth's physical, mental, and emotional well-being; the right to services to prevent harm; and the right to monitoring and supervision.

The right to safety includes the right to receive services to prevent physical or psychological harm or deterioration while in foster care. Child welfare professionals must be vigilant to avoid contracting for services that use inappropriate or unethical practices when dealing with LGBTQ youth, such as conversion therapy and other controversial practices intended to involuntarily change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The duty to protect youth in the child welfare system imposes a corresponding duty on the professionals involved to maintain regular contact, including, at a minimum, one face-to-face visit every month to ensure their continued safety.

When reunification is part of a youth's case plan, agencies should support families to ensure that parents or guardians develop the capacity to address a youth's needs in a healthy, understanding manner when the family is reunified.

For transgender youth, social workers need to do the following:

  • Provide information about LGBTQ and trans-specific services available for youth.
  • If a youth discloses bullying, whether at school or somewhere else, address it by contacting the appropriate individuals to resolve the issue.
  • Attempt to send youth to a clinic that is known to be transgender friendly.
  • Ensure that youth receive all transition-related treatment deemed medically necessary by their health-care provider.
  • Ensure that safe sex messages are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Find local resources that can assist transgender youth with legal issues such as getting their names changed and getting identity documents (e.g., identification, birth certificate).
  • Become familiar with local area support groups, counseling, and other services specific to transgender youth so referrals to those services can be made, as appropriate.

Placement Considerations

Citation: DHS-6500, Ch. 5

While working toward developing a positive, respectful relationship with LGBTQ youth, it is vital that social workers ensure that all placements are safe and supportive. Social workers also should consider the following:

  • Foster parents' attitudes toward LGBTQ youth. Agency staff must be particularly attuned to placing youth who identify as LGBTQ with foster families who are committed to providing a safe, supporting, and affirming environment for youth while in care.
  • Educating foster parents on LGBTQ issues. Agencies should recruit, train, and provide ongoing support to families, including LGBTQ individuals and families who are able to provide a safe, loving placement for youth who are LGBTQ and involved with the child welfare system.
  • Lack of permanency. Youth in foster care who are LGBTQ may be less likely to find a permanent home than other children, whether that means reunification, adoption, or transfer of permanent legal and physical custody.

When placing transgender youth in a foster home, ensure that foster parents will be supportive of their gender identity. When placing transgender youth in a residential facility, ensure the facility is safe and respectful of transgender youth.

Caregiver Qualifications

Citation: Admin. Code § 2960.3070; DHS-6500, Ch. 5

A nonrelative foster parent must complete a minimum of 6 hours of orientation before accepting a child in foster care. Orientation is required for relative foster parents who will be licensed as a child's foster parents. The foster parent's orientation must include cultural diversity, gender sensitivity, culturally specific services, cultural competence, and information about discrimination and racial bias issues to ensure that caregivers will be culturally competent to care for children in foster care.

In policy: The following are steps social workers can take to help ensure LGBTQ youth will be safe while in out-of-home care:

  • Recruiting foster families that are LGBTQ themselves or are outwardly supportive of and allies to LGBTQ communities
  • Using home study forms and processes that are inclusive (e.g., using forms that gender neutral) and directly address LGBTQ issues


Citation: DHS-6500, Ch. 5

The terms used in this policy are defined as follows:

  • 'Bisexual' refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and sexually attracted to both men and women.
  • 'Gay' refers to a person whose emotional, romantic, and sexual attractions are primarily for individuals of the same sex, typically in reference to men.
  • 'Gender expression' refers to a person's expression of their gender identity, including behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions.
  • 'Gender identity' refers to an individual's self-conception as being male, female, both, or neither, as distinguished from actual biological sex. Everyone has a gender identity.
  • 'Gender identity disorder' is a strong, persistent desire to be the opposite sex, as well as persistent discomfort about one's anatomical sex.
  • 'Gender nonconforming' refers to having or being perceived to have gender characteristics and/or behaviors that do not conform to traditional or societal expectations.
  • 'Genderqueer' is a term of self-identification for individuals who do not identify with the restrictive and binary terms that have traditionally described gender identity (for instance, male or female only).
  • 'Heteronormativity' is a belief system that assumes heterosexuality is normal and that everyone is heterosexual.
  • 'Heterosexism' is a belief system that assumes that heterosexuality is inherently preferable and superior to other forms of sexual orientation.
  • 'Heterosexual' refers to a person whose emotional, romantic, and sexual attractions are primarily for individuals of a different sex.
  • 'Homophobia' is the fear of, hatred of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality, LGBTQ individuals or those perceived as LGBTQ, and anyone associated with LGBTQ persons.
  • 'Homosexual' is a term used to refer to a person based on their same-sex sexual orientation, identity, or behavior. Many LGBTQ individuals prefer not to use this term because of its historically negative use.
  • 'Intersex' is a term used to refer to a person born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not conform exclusively to male or female norms in terms of physiological sex. An intersex person may or may not identify as LGBTQ.
  • 'LGBTQ' is common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer, which includes persons who, despite their differences, are often discriminated against in similar ways.
  • 'Queer' is an historically derogatory term for a gay man, lesbian, or gender-nonconforming individual. The term has been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQ community as a positive, inclusive, or umbrella term for all LGBTQ individuals.
  • 'Questioning' is an active process in which a person explores their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity and questions the cultural assumptions that they are heterosexual and/or gender conforming.
  • 'Reparative or conversion therapy' is an intervention intended to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. This action is not condoned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, or other major professional associations.
  • 'Sexual orientation' is a term describing a person's emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction, whether it is for members of the same gender or different gender.
  • 'Transgender' is an umbrella term that can be used to describe individuals whose gender expression is nonconforming and/or whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth.
  • 'Transphobia' is the fear of, hatred of, aversion to, or discrimination against transgender individuals or those who are gender nonconforming.
  • 'Transsexual' is a term for someone who transitions from one physical sex to another to bring their body more in line with their innate sense of gender identity.