Tip Sheet Tuesday: Advocating for LGBTQ Youth

Picture1All youth rely on their parents for guidance, support, nurturing, and unconditional acceptance. Foster and adoptive parents are important allies and advocates for youth. If we provide guidance, support, nurturance, and advocacy for LGBTQ youth, we will be instrumental in their successful development.

Approximately 5% to 10% of the general population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ). LGBTQ adolescents are estimated to make up a disproportionate share of the youth who are in foster care according to the Child Welfare League of America and the Lambda Legal Joint Initiative.

Fear Factor
Many young people fear the negative reactions that come from revealing that they are LGBTQ. Many youth in care may not have acknowledged or “come out” to share that they identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ youth are also often victims of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse and often have a high rate of suicide attempts, binge alcohol use, and drug use. They often experience insecure feelings and emotional trauma due to being subjected to bullying.

Allies and Advocates
An important aspect of advocating for all youth is acceptance with an open heart and mind when a young person instills their trust by informing you of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Barbara Jones, an experienced Wisconsin foster parent, has had placement of LGBTQ children. She suggests that often we lack knowledge or exposure to LGBTQ issues, so we may shut down or have prejudice toward LGBTQ foster youth.

She goes on to suggest that we educate ourselves; we will be more open and accepting to work with children and adults of varying sexual orientations.

As a foster parent, it is important to be “open, accepting and a good listener,” according to Barbara. Create an atmosphere within your home that allows the child to feel safe and comfortable to speak to you about any subject, including sexuality. Continue Reading

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