Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in the Child Welfare System
LGBTQ+ Youth in the Child Welfare System
LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term referring to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. Sometimes the acronym is written as LGBTQ+, with the “Q” referring to those who identify as queer and/or questioning. The plus denotes that potential new terms can be added at the end of the acronym. Understanding the historical and current challenges that LGBTQ+ community members face, policies and practices are needed to provide support and positive change.
Adolescence is a critical time for LGBTQ+ youth. Teenage years are a time of physical and social-emotional development. This is also a time when many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and gender nonconforming (GNC) youth begin to self-identify. These groups are often clustered together under umbrella terms such as “LGBTQ,” “LGBTQI-GNC,” and “queer.” However, there are differences between these individuals and their identities.
Gender identity and sexuality may not easily fit into rigid or binary terminology. Sexuality and gender identity/expression exist on a continuum. Youth’s personal identities may vary by such tiny differences that may not seem to differ from each other at all. It is important to recognize that LGBTQ+ youth are also not a monolithic or homogenous population. For example, being transgender does not equate to having same-sex attraction — a transgender male may be attracted to females, males, or both. As youth navigate through understanding, accepting, and sharing their identity, things can change over time. Some younger individuals view sexuality and gender more fluidly.
Key data points:
- 4.5% of Indiana’s population identify as LGBTQ+, and 34% of the LGBTQ+ population has children.
- The majority of the adult LGBTQ+ population is White (71%), followed by Hispanic (12%), Black (9%), Two or more races (6%).
- As of September 2020, Indiana was home to 43,000 LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 17; 7.8% of this population is comprised of transgender youth (3,350).
The data highlight that LGBTQ+ youth in Indiana continue to face complex barriers, such as stigma, victimization, bias, and rejection, leading to poor outcomes. Given the landscape, LGBTQ+ youth need caring youth workers, educators, advocates, and mentors more than ever.