Supporting LGBTQ Youth

Building capacity for foster care and juvenile courts to provide safe, affirming support

For Alyx, coming out to his dad was a catalyst for abuse. Alyx’s dad rejected his son’s identity, physically abused him, then kicked him out and reported him to the cops as a runaway. Alyx was returned home, but this cycle was repeated again and again. At 15, Alyx gave up and left home. He started selling drugs to survive and was arrested. That’s where things could have changed for Alyx, but the juvenile justice system failed him. Instead, Alyx had to find his own way to recover from the trauma he experienced because of his sexual orientation.

LGBTQ youth are more likely to be involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems at a disproportionate rate. In family homes or foster care, they often encounter discrimination and abuse. As a result, many LGTBQ youth are forced into homelessness where they are in danger of harassment and violence. Nationwide, 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ—and almost half of homeless LGBTQ youth are on the streets because of family rejection. Committing survival crimes on the streets can lead to arrest. Once in the juvenile justice system, LGBTQ youth often face more discrimination and abuse.

What We’re Doing:

  • Listening to youth to inform systems change. In groundbreaking research in 2015, we documented stories of LGBTQ youth to understand their experiences in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in order to shape programs and policies. This research culminated in our report: Listening to Their Voices: Enhancing Successful Outcomes for LGBTQ Youth in Washington’s Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems.
  • Improving systems to better support LGBTQ youth. With CCYJ’s eQuality Project, we’re bringing together juvenile courts, child welfare agencies, and social service providers to implement recommendations aimed to reduce homelessness and create safe and affirming experiences for LGBTQ youth in child welfare or juvenile justice.
  • Creating a protocol for agencies to understand the specific needs of LGBTQ youth. We’ve developed the Protocol for Safe & Affirming Care for foster care and juvenile justice professionals to guide them in addressing the specific needs of LGBTQ youth—needs such as hormone treatments for transitioning youth, affirming behavioral health care, and LGBTQ support groups. The protocol also provides guidance on collecting data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression so that we can gain a better understanding of these youth. We’re piloting the protocol in King and Spokane Counties, and hope to take it statewide so more LGBTQ youth can get on the pathway to healthy, stable adulthood.