Abstract: (Withdrawn) The Experiences of Transgender and Gender Expansive Young People in Foster Care Systems in the U.S (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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(Withdrawn) The Experiences of Transgender and Gender Expansive Young People in Foster Care Systems in the U.S

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun C, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Gerald Mallon, DSW, Professor, Silberman School of Social Work, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Former foster care involved youth, in particular transgender and gender expansive youth are often uniquely alienated, as many suffer from a lack of social, medical and family support resulting from their involvement in the foster care system. Although all youth who exit foster care as adults may have difficulty accessing the support they need to become healthy-functioning adults, these issues may be exacerbated for transgender and gender expansive youth who often face added challenges associated with their gender identity and expression. This lack of support is significant and critical for achieving healthy development and functioning in young adulthood. Despite risks, this research focusing on transgender and gender expansive youth, particularly those in foster care systems is limited. In addressing this paucity of information, this study explores the range of experiences of a national cohort of transgender and gender expansive youth who have had experience in foster care systems and offers recommendations on developing models of promoting trans affirming approaches to improve foster care systems for transgender and gender expansive youth placed in them

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 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 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 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.