Abstract: Voices of LGBTQIA2-S Youth in Foster Care: Implications for Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

337P Voices of LGBTQIA2-S Youth in Foster Care: Implications for Practice

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Janna Heyman, PhD, Professor and Chair, Fordham University, West Harrison, NY
Linda White-Ryan, PhD, Assistant Dean, Fordham University, West Harrison, NY
Derek Tice-Brown, PhD, Asst Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Tara Linh Leaman, JD, Program Director, Westchester County Department of Social Services, White Plains, NY
Peggy Kelly, PhD, Research Director, Fordham University, West Harrison, NY
Henry Davis, PhD, Director of Programs & Research, Fordham University, West Harrison, NY
Background and Purpose: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and two-spirit (LGBTQI2-S) youth are disproportionately represented in the foster care system (Baams, Wilson, & Russell, 2019). Estimates of LGBTQI2-S youth in care range widely from 5 to 30% (Baams, Wilson, & Russell, 2019; Wilson, Cooper, Kastanis, & Nezhad, 2014). The purpose of this study was to provide insights from LGBTQIA2-S youth and young adults in foster care or with foster care histories. In addition, this information was used to develop a brief to help guide practitioners in collaborating and empowering LGBTQIA2-S voice.

Methods: In order to understand LGBTQI2-S youth and young adults’ experiences, data were collected using qualitative methods. The researchers collaborated with the LGBTQI2-S community in a large geographic county with diverse communities of color. Data collection was planned with input from community members. To be eligible, all youth and young adults who participated in the focus groups identified as part of the LGBTQI2-S community, were in foster care or had foster care histories, and were between 18 and 30 years of age. Audiotapes from the focus groups were used and transcribed and declassified to protect confidentiality. A first step of the qualitative analysis was using open coding. The principles of grounded theory analysis were used to identify shared connections between all members and to identify emergent themes from the transcripts (Charmaz, 2006). Results from this in-depth review helped to underscore the diverse experiences and understand the concerns through their eyes.

Results: Some of the core themes from the focus groups centered on trust, visibility, authenticity, rejection and cumulative pain. Youth and young adults emphasized that trust is often challenging because of the many broken relationships and difficulties they have experienced, often in foster care or with family members, friends and schools. Stress of experiencing microaggressions, bullying, and discrimination were discussed. The need to be visible and respected was important for the participants. Many youth spoke of rejection from their parents, family members and friend because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. LGBTQI2-S youth and young adults discussed cumulative pain throughout their experiences, some in-care, at home, or in the school system.

Conclusions and Implications: Critical to building trust is to recognize that LGBTQIA2-S youth and young adults need to be visible, respected, and have their voices heard. Practitioners need to create a safe space for youth to share their painful experiences. The importance of being present to hear the lived experience of cumulative pain experienced by LGBTQIA2-S youth can take place only in an atmosphere of respect and recognition.


Baams, L., Wilson, B. D. M., & Russell, S. T. (2019). LGBTQ youth in unstable housing and foster care. Pediatrics, 143(3), e21074211.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing qualitative theory. Sage Publications

Wilson, B., Cooper, K., Kastanis, A., & Nezhad, S. (2014). Sexual and gender minority youth in foster care: Assessing disproportionality and disparities in Los Angeles. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.