Methods: Data were gathered through in- depth, face-to-face interviews, observations, and focus groups with 23 participants, aged 21-27 years, that had exited the foster care or juvenile justice systems within the past five years. Participants were asked questions related to their experiences with peers, staff, and systems as they related to their experiences as a self-identified transgender, non-binary or gender expansive individual. Data was analyzed using a combination of qualitative structural and thematic narrative analysis methods.
Results: Transgender and gender expansive youth from foster care and juvenile justice systems have a range of experiences both positive and negative with respect to accessing trans-competent services and developing supportive relationships. Young people reported problems with handling threats to their safety and wellbeing, navigating the health and mental health care systems, addressing social and medical transition issues and relationships with friends, family, social workers and other service providers. This evidence suggests that the supports and services transgender and gender expansive youth receive may be inadequate for addressing their distinctive mental health, health and wellbeing needs.
Conclusions and Implications Results generate new insights about the unique experiences and perspectives of transgender and gender expansive individuals after exiting foster care or juvenile justice systems as young adults and offers critical information about how gender identity and gender expression may play out during their young adulthood. Findings provide policymakers, researchers, and practitioners with the information they need to develop strategies that better support increase the quality of care and services they receive, and ultimately to improve their lives. Recommendations for improving policies and practices are provided.