Showing Up for LGBTQ+ Youth In Foster Care
All children deserve a safe, nurturing permanent family that values who they are. Too often for LGBTQ+ youth in foster care, this is not a reality. LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system, and they face greater risk of negative outcomes compared to their cisgender peers. This Pride Month, we are highlighting data that shows the challenges that LGBTQ+ youth experience in the child welfare system. We are also looking at the impact that just one caring adult can have for LGBTQ+ youth—and how you can make a difference.
LGBTQ+ Youth In Foster Care Are Overrepresented
There are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately represented. According to Children’s Rights, more than 30% of the children in foster care identify as LGBTQ+. By comparison, only 11% of the general youth population identifies as LGBTQ+. Furthermore, one study shows that 44% of the LGBTQ+ youth reported that they entered foster care as a direct result of their identity.
Greater Risk for Negative Outcomes
LGBTQ+ youth are at greater risk for negative outcomes in the foster care system. Children’s Rights reports that they are twice as likely to endure mistreatment in foster care. They are also more than twice as likely to live in group homes compared to their cisgender peers. According to the Trevor Project, 40% of transgender and nonbinary youth in foster care reported being kicked out, abandoned, or running away due to treatment based on their identity.
These children already experience trauma just by being in foster care in the first place. The mistreatment that many LGBTQ+ youth endure because of their identity only compounds their trauma while in the system. As a result, LGBTQ+ youth who spend time in foster care are at higher risk for mental health issues. In fact, the Trevor Project also reports that LGBTQ+ youth in care are three times more likely to attempt suicide than those not involved in the child welfare system.
The Impact of One Caring Adult
Although these statistics are unsettling, additional data shows the positive impact that an affirming environment can have for LGBTQ+ youth. A study by the Trevor Project found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who did not have a supportive adult to lean on.
That’s why foster parents can make a big impact for LGBTQ+ youth. A foster parent who is willing to show up for children and teens—and affirm their core identities—can make a world of difference. It just takes one caring adult to be the mentor that a young person needs.
Arms Wide is looking for LGBTQ+-affirming foster parents to join our efforts to connect children with safe, nurturing families. Are you interested in showing up for a child or teen through foster care or foster care adoption? Please join us for an upcoming virtual information meeting. Our staff will walk you through the process of becoming a foster parent and answer any questions you may have. For a child or teen in need, your action could change their world.