LGBTQIA+ Foster Youth
Currently, 32% of youth, ages 13-17, in Ohio’s foster care system identify as LGBTQIA+, and 42% feel they can never be their authentic self where they live.
LGBTQIA+ Foster Youth
Foster youth who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community are placed in foster care for many of the same reasons as other children. In some cases, they have experienced trauma from various forms of abuse and neglect, or their guardians can no longer care for them. However, LGBTQIA+ foster youth often have the added trauma of feeling rejected or mistreated because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. There are currently 16,000 youth in foster care, with 32% of youth aged 13-17 identifying with the LGBTQIA+ community. Approximately 42% of those youth feel they can never be their authentic self where they live (ProKids.org).
Many LGBTQIA+ foster youth struggle to find placement due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. It is not uncommon for foster parents to choose not to accept LGBTQIA+ children based on their personal feelings or beliefs. In fact, LGBTQIA+ foster youth are more likely to run away from their foster homes. This is primarily due to past trauma of rejection or mistreatment for living their true self. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ foster youth are at a higher risk for substance abuse, placement instability, and adverse physical and mental health conditions.
LGBTQIA+ FOSTER YOUTH LEGAL PROTECTIONS
Less than half of the US states offer legal protection through non-discrimination policies with foster care organizations. Only 14 US states have policies that include gender identity. However, these policies do not extend to the individual homes of foster parents.
At NewPath Child & Family Solutions (formerly St. Joseph Orphanage), we not only provide services to those that need them most, but we also advocate for the children and families we support and act as a safe place that is inclusive of all races, genders, and identities. In Ohio, there are currently 16,000 youth in foster care and only 6,000 foster parents. Now more than ever, LGBTQIA+ foster youth need safe and loving homes where they can grow into adulthood.
How YOU Can Support LGBTQIA+ Foster Youth
Be a safe place
Become a foster parent that creates an environment of acceptance, understanding, and a place where all youth can safely grow into adulthood. All foster youth deserve a safe place to be themselves, regardless of how they identify. Communicate to the child in your care that they are free to express themselves and that you are always willing to listen.
Make it clear that jokes or slurs based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation are not tolerated by anyone in your home. Continuously express your disapproval of these jokes if you encounter them in the community or media. Act as an ally and advocate for the youth in your care to ensure they feel safe and protected. Many LGBTQIA+ foster youth come from environments of rejection or hatred for being their true self. Focus your efforts on rebuilding self-esteem and growing self-love.
Support Self Expression
Always support the youth’s self-expression through clothes, hairstyles, room decoration, and more. Consistently use the pronouns each child prefers, he, she, they, or a combination of the three. Don’t be afraid to ask what pronouns they prefer if you are unsure. Engaging with them to better understand their preferences is another way to build trust and foster security.
Use gender-neutral pronouns if asking about a love interest or relationship. Celebrate diversity in all forms of media. Provide access to books, movies, and other materials that positively represent LGBTQIA+ lifestyles and relationships. Discuss LGBTQIA+ celebrity role models that stay true to themselves even when facing adversity.
Be Understanding and Willing to Listen
Adolescence is a time of growth and self-understanding. It is not uncommon for LGBTQIA+ youth to change their gender identity or sexual orientation over time as they explore who they truly are. Respect their privacy, but be willing to listen and communicate acceptance if they choose to open up. LGBTQIA+ youth are just like any other children or teens. They want to be accepted and loved by those in their life.
Become a Foster Parent
In Ohio, there are currently 16,000 youth in foster care and only 6,000 foster parents. With 32% identifying in the LGBTQIA+ community. Many LGBTQIA+ foster youth struggle to find placement due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Open your heart and your home and become a foster parent that is inclusive of all foster youth. Learn more by filling out the below form or clicking HERE.
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