Abstract: The Audre Project: Individual and Community-Based Resilience of Lgbtqia+ Youth in out-of-Home Care in the Netherlands (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Audre Project: Individual and Community-Based Resilience of Lgbtqia+ Youth in out-of-Home Care in the Netherlands

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Victor Rodrigo Alvarez, Masters degree, PhD candidate, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Mijntje ten Brummelaar, PhD, Teacher/researcher, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Mónica López López, PhD, Associate Profesor, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Background: Research on LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender and other sexualities) populations has traditionally focused on negative health outcomes and their individual determinants. This approach tends to neglect the importance of structural factors and the ways in which this populations overcome them to maintain their health (Gahagan & Colpitts, 2017). The resilience approach is an alternative that highlights how individuals and communities withstand and resolve stress and its negative consequences. While individual resilience focuses on the personal traits associated to a positive adaptation, community-based resilience stresses how individuals and communities achieve positive outcomes through community-based processes (de Lira & de Morais, 2018).

Research on the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA+ children and youth in the Child Protection System (CPS) has also been centred in their negative outcomes. Often, LGBTQIA+ youth do not feel safe and affirmed in their out-of-home placements (Mallon, 2019). While in care, the placement and service needs of LGBTQIA+ youth are not always adequately addressed: they are treated less well than their non-LGBTQIA + peers and experience more placement breakdowns. They are exposed to the common challenges of the care system, and also, to a society that still discriminates based on sexual orientation and gender identity expression.

Objective: This study aimed to delve into the multiple ways LGBTQIA+ youth living in care are resilient to the multiple challenges they face.

Method: This study made use of Audre´s project data. Audre project aimed to listen to the voices of LGBTQIA+ youth who have experienced out-of-home care in the Netherlands. We conducted thirteen semi-structured interviews with LGBTQIA+ youth growing up in care. We paid extra attention to the ethics of research with minoritized groups, always trying to keep a flexible, reflexive and participative research process where the voices and perspectives of the participants were deemed of utmost relevance.

Results: The stories of LGBTQIA+ youth living in care show how they are (forced to be) strong and resilient to the multiple challenges they face. At the individual level, they implement several coping strategies such as engaging in hobbies or trying to stay positive. They also make of their history of facing difficulties part of their personal identity, realising that they are strong. At the community-based level, they benefit from belonging to a group, feeling connected to their family, practitioners or peers, and embracing several identities. Some of them engage in youth councils or other social activities, creating a sense of collective identity. Furthermore, social support from the care system is extremely important to foster their resilience and wellbeing.

Discussions/conclusions: Shifting the research narrative from a deficit-oriented and individualistic approach to a narrative that emphasises the strengths and importance of the social system is key to depict in a comprehensive and empowering way the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth in care. These results are valuable information to the designing of interventions to foster their individual resources and to change the CPS into a safer, more welcoming and affirmative environment for them; a place that collectively cultivates resilience.