Methods: Grounded in twelve months of ethnographic research at an LGBTQ youth center providing social and medical services in metropolitan Detroit, this study utilized extensive participant-observation in organizational activities – including staff meetings, program planning and development, program evaluation, and service provision – as well as semi-structured interviews with key staff, youth advisory board members and youth peer leaders, agency directors, and community partners.
Results: This presentation compiles and analyzes data from participant-observation of social work interventions tailored for SGMY in foster care, as well as interviews with staff and peer youth leaders involved in this programming. Results from this data include: (1) analysis of critiques youth articulate of limited notions of kinship and care in professional social service settings; (2) discussions of possibilities for expanding notions of kinship to include gay families and chosen kin in social service provision (e.g. incorporating chosen families into family finding interventions); and (3) analysis of the ways idioms of queer kinship might be incorporated into organizational practices at agencies serving LGBTQ youth.
Conclusion & Implications: This presentation explores the limits, consequences, and possibilities of examining and expanding notions of kinship, belonging, and care in work with SGMY involved in the child welfare system. The questions this research poses have the potential to inform social work practice with queer and trans youth across a wide range of clinical and organizational settings. This analysis also has the potential to contribute theoretically to social scientific and anthropological understandings of kinship and belonging in care settings.