Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) The Space to be Myself: The Participation of Lgbtqia+ Youth in out-of-Home Care (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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214P (WITHDRAWN) The Space to be Myself: The Participation of Lgbtqia+ Youth in out-of-Home Care

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Mijntje ten Brummelaar, PhD, Teacher/researcher, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Mónica López López, PhD, Associate Profesor, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Kevin van Mierlo, BA, Student, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Victor Rodrigo Alvarez, Masters degree, PhD candidate, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Leo Wieldraaijer-Vincent, MSW, Director, Cornerstones Youth Care, Groningen, Netherlands
Theo Wieldraaijer-Vincent, Collaboration Manager, Cornerstones Youth Care, Netherlands
Background and purpose: Youth participation in child protection is increasingly being acknowledged as a powerful ‘tool’ for young people to influence the decisions that affect their lives. Despite the its potential benefits, putting participation into practice has not always demonstrated easy. Studies show that young people oftentimes lack a true voice in decisions about their own lives. The barriers that limit the opportunity to participate in decisions are experienced by many children and young people, however some groups might face multiple and far-reaching challenges. This is especially true for LGBTQIA+ children and young people who are in contact with the child protection system.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative study (the Audre project) on the experiences, needs and wishes of LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults in out-of-home care in the Netherlands. A total of 13 young people reflected on their time in out-of-home care (e.g., foster care, secure residential care placements, independent living programs, treatment groups) and their ideas on how to strengthen services and practices for LGBTQIA+ youth. Furthermore, the Audre project focused on the perceptions of 29 carers (e.g., practitioners and foster carers), and the policy documents of several of Dutch youth care organizations. In this presentation we will pay special attention to the stories of young people who stayed in out-of-home care and their experiences of participation during their time in care.

Findings: According to the exchanges with young people, there are at least four prerequisites for enabling participatory practices that have special impact for LGBQTIA+ youth. First, the importance of a supportive and affirmative environment for LGBTQIA+ young people and how this works as a prerequisite for participatory practices. Second, the need to develop a connection with a caregiver or staff member in order to be able to participate. Third, how participation can take place in the way of being informed and prepared for the decisions to make. Fourth, the request of young people to have their own ‘space’ and to be surrounded by staff trained to address the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth.

Conclusion and Implications: LGBTQIA+ young people experience limited opportunities to participate in decision-making procedures while in care. Some young people even experience unwelcoming care environments that prevent them from a meaningful participation process. The stories of young people reveal the importance of a sensitive and affirmative environment within care facilities, the need for a connection with staff that operate in these facilities, the need to being informed and prepared for decisions both prior, during and after care, and to have the space to be themselves. Young people want to be seen, heard and affirmed in who they are. With these findings, we aim to gain further insight on how to create safe and sensitive care practices for LGBTQIA+ youth.