Multiple family- and system-related factors are hypothesized to contribute to this disproportionality, including rejection from and maltreatment by family of origin (Baams, 2018; Ryan, et al., 2009; Mallon, et al., 2002); higher likelihood of SGMY running away from home (Durso & Gates, 2012; Pearson, et al., 2017); greater placement instability, longer lengths of foster care stays, and restrictive care placements once in the system (Wilson, et al., 2016; Mallon, Aledort & Ferrera, 2002; Woronoff, et al., 2006). These cumulative and compounded adversities may lead to greater burden of mental health disparities, including mood disorders, suicidal behaviors and self-harm, among this population of youth.
In 2016 the Administration of Children and Families focused attention to the development of tailored services for SGMY. Interventions designed to increase placement stability and permanency outcomes are central to these endeavors. However, within child welfare, family engagement and reconnection has historically rested on heteronormative and Euro-centric conceptualizations of the family system. Within queer communities and in queer studies scholarship, the concept of chosen family has held primacy, despite recent calls for increased attention to families of origin and biological families in queer kinship studies (Brainer 2019). Youth centered permanency work with SGMY, many of whom are also youth of color, necessitates a paradigm shift in how researchers and practitioners think about family and family reconnection work with this diverse population.
Paper one systematically reviews the evidence related to minority stress theory to support a contextualized model of disproportionate psychological comorbidities among SGMY with histories of foster care involvement. Using this evidence base, SGM-community belonging, diverse kinship and chosen familial supports are framed as resiliency resources to reduce mental health burden among foster care-involved SGMY.
Paper two presents findings from an NIH-funded cross-sectional, community-based pilot study to examine prevalence and correlates of psychological comorbidities (anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicidal behaviors and self harm) and social support among SGMY with foster care histories. Quantitative findings are contextualized with short-answer qualitative data related to SGMY foster care and social support experiences.
Paper three expands widely held notions of kinship and family among SGM individuals through ethnographic study of the complex and diverse kinship systems of SGMY involved in the child welfare system. This paper identifies ways that expanded notions of kinship might improve quality and increase the potential of youth centered services for SGMY youth of color in foster care.