Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth In Foster Care | Getting Clear About Foster Care

Last updated: June 16, 2021, at 1:47 p.m. PT

Originally published: June 10, 2021, at 10:18 a.m. PT

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There is a great need for more LGBTQIA+ identified and affirming foster homes with skilled caregivers who can support LGBTQIA+ youth in navigating the barriers faced by the queer community, and to celebrate them for being their whole authentic selves. Not only do we need more LGBTQIA+ families to foster so queer and trans youth can see themselves reflected, but non-LGBTQIA+ families can also learn how to be supportive and provide LGBTQIA+ youth with a safe and affirming home.

“LGBTQIA+ foster parents are important because there are queer and trans kids in care right now that need placements.”
~ Ashleigh and Quinn, Y Foster Parents

Legal Protections for LGBTQIA+ Youth

Fortunately, Washington State does have legal protections against discrimination of LGBTQIA+ youth in foster care, but many states still do not, and despite these protections, LGBTQIA+ youth face significant disparities within the child welfare system. This is where LGBTQIA+ families can make a big impact for queer and trans youth in care.

“LGBTQIA+ folks often know what it’s like to not fit in. They know what it’s like to feel different. They may know what it’s like to experience family rejection. There are parallels – they aren’t exact – but there are some parallels that can really help them to think about the experience of kids in care.” ~ Jen and Angie, Y Foster Parents 

Families Also Play an Important Role

Non-LGBTQIA+ Families also play an important role in supporting queer and trans youth. Data shows that youth are more likely to come out to their peers than they are to the adults in their life. So non-LGBTQIA+ foster families are likely to care for a queer or trans youth and never know it. One study also showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth waited between 7-8 years from when they first thought they might be queer to when they actually told someone else that that were queer. This is why it’s even more important to be mindful of language and build an inclusive home so all youth feel safe, even if they choose not to share their identity with you.

“Whether you’re queer or not – whether you’re trans or not – the way you talk about other people matters and the kid’s hear it.” ~ Ashleigh & Quinn

It’s also important to raise all children in your home to be inclusive of their queer and trans peers, as we know that LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to experience bullying, feel sad or hopeless, and attempt suicide than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. It’s up to all of us to raise children to be inclusive of those who are different from them, and that starts with us modeling that behavior.

“Everyone should have queer-oes and trans-cestors. Straight people should be valuing those voices too. We should be working just as hard on building up non-queer families to be supportive and queer-affirming homes.” ~ Ashleigh and Quinn

How You Can Show Your Support

Create ways to make it obvious from the get go that you’re a supportive home, like displaying a pride flag or a Black Lives Matter sticker on your fridge, or art on your walls that is inclusive and intersectional. “Somebody walking into your house knows something about what you believe in and what you value by what you’re willing to put on your walls. It’s a little thing you can do to make it clear to a kid walking into your home – but, that’s not where your social justice work ends,” says foster parents Ashleigh and Quinn.

While all LGBTQIA+ youth share similar challenges within our cisheteronormative society, it is very important to recognize that queer and trans youth of color are also experiencing racism and microaggressions that significantly impact their well-being. One study showed that 48% of LGBTQIA+ students of color experienced verbal harassment because of both their sexual orientation and their race or ethnicity. Foster parents have a responsibility and an opportunity to support LGBTQIA+ youth of color and be a part of changing the landscape so youth can thrive, not in spite of their intersecting identities, but because of them.

Whether you are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not, you have power to make your home and your community a safer and more affirming environment for queer kids (and LGBTQIA+ adults too!). Stay curious, open-minded, and remember to meet kids where they are at. They are the experts of their experience and there’s so much that we adults can learn from them.

Resources to Support LGBTQIA+ Youth in Foster Care

Learn more about Foster Care at the Y or explore the resources below: