Abstract: Supporting Foster Parents in Building Supportive Relationships with LGBTQ+ Youth in Their Care: A Self-Guided Training Module (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Supporting Foster Parents in Building Supportive Relationships with LGBTQ+ Youth in Their Care: A Self-Guided Training Module

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 10, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Salazar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
Kevin Haggerty, PhD, Director, Social Development Research Group, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Susan Barkan, PhD, Assistant Director, University of Washington, WA
Background and Purpose: LGBTQ+ youth are often over-represented in the foster care system, and frequently face discrimination both inside and outside of this system. Supportive resources and educational information about LGBTQ+ foster youth that expand caregivers’ knowledge and understanding of their child may help caregivers be more effective in promoting the healthy development and wellbeing of these youth. To address this, we developed a foster parent training module to support the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in care as part of a larger study testing the efficacy of Connecting, a relationship building-focused foster parent training program. This presentation provides information on the module’s content, as well as feedback received from foster caregivers and LGBTQ+ youth with foster care experience during a theater test of its content.

Methods: The first step in the module development process was drafting content based on the scholarly literature, other existing resources, and researcher and practitioner expertise. We then conducted focus groups with stakeholders in the child welfare system (foster care alumni, caregivers, child welfare workers) to explore their recommended strategies for building better relationships between LGBTQ+ youth and caregivers. Following development of the module, we conducted a theater test with 7 LGBTQ+ youth with foster care experience and 7 foster caregivers to obtain feedback on its content and collect recommendations for its improvement. Participants completed each activity, filled out a brief survey about their experience of each activity, and participated in a discussion about that activity.

Results: The module development procedure resulted in a module with 9 activities: Youth Stories; Know, Heard, New (a review of common LGBTQ+ related terms); Myths & Realities; Roadblocks to Acceptance; Conversations about Discrimination; Make a Plan (safety planning); Sensitive Conversation Strategies; Are You in Crisis?; and Seeking Appropriate Healthcare. Theater test findings were positive. In response to the question “I understood what I was supposed to do,” almost all participants responded affirmatively. When asked to rate “How interesting was the material?” on a scale from 1 (not interesting) to 7 (very interesting), average responses to the activities ranged from 5 to 6. When asked to rate “How helpful was this activity in increasing your confidence in approaching this topic?” on a scale from 1 (not helpful) to 7 (very helpful), average responses to the activities ranged from 4.6 to 6.1. In group discussions, participants felt that the module should be designed primarily for caregivers, as youth were not typically the party in need of intervention. Youth and caregivers agreed that caregivers had the greatest need for knowledge and skill development, and that the appropriateness of youth involvement in the training process could be determined on a case-by-case basis, primarily in relation to youths’ comfort level.

Conclusions and Implications: This training module provides one resource for helping improve foster parent acceptance of and relationship building with LGBTQ+ youth in their care. This training will soon be made available to all foster parents and child welfare workers in the state of Washington.