Studies estimate that 5 to 10 percent of the children and youth in foster care identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ);1 however, the actual numbers may be much higher as youth in this population may not feel comfortable enough to disclose their sexual orientation. Therefore, increasing the awareness, knowledge, and skills of social workers and administrators in the child welfare system to effectively meet the needs of LGBTQ youth and their families is of critical importance. These youth face unique challenges—from familial rejection due to their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity to possible discrimination and abuse while in care. Find resources in this section related to behavioral health concerns and building cultural competence as it relates to working with LGBTQ children and youth involved with child welfare.
Presents data about the mental health challenges experienced by LGBTQ youth, like suicidal ideation and substance use, in addition to resources to support professionals in addressing these topics.
Breaking Barriers to Quality Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Youth
Trevor Project (2020)
Summarizes findings for a longitudinal study indicating LGBTQ youth are less likely to access the mental health resources. This executive summary also discusses the specific barriers that prevent LGBTQ youth from accessing services.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Summarizes data about the behavioral health inequities experienced by LGBTQ-identifying individuals, as well as information about federal initiatives designed to address these disparities.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Presents audience-specific resources about the behavioral health of LGBTQ individuals.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth
Identifies and explains evidence-based interventions and resources designed to increase the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Explains the intersectional factors that contribute to negative mental health outcomes for LGBTQI-identifying individuals, as well as active steps that professionals can take to address these health disparities.
1The estimate comes from the assumption that 5–10 percent of the general population is LGBT. John C. Gonsiorek & James D. Weinrich, “The Definition and Scope of Sexual Orientation,” in Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991); Courtney, Dworsky, Lee, and Raap, (2009) found a much higher percentage of youth in foster care who identified as something other than fully heterosexual (see https://www.aecf.org/resources/midwest-evaluation-of-the-adult-functioning-of-former-foster-youth/).