Supporting LGBTQ Youth

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

For Alyx, coming out to his dad as gay 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 youth criminal legal system failed him. Alyx was not connected to adults who were able to provide affirming care, connections, and resources to him as a LGBTQ+ youth. Instead, Alyx had to find his own way to recover from the trauma he experienced as a result of how he was treated by others and their inability to understand and accept his sexual orientation.

LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to be involved in the child welfare and youth criminal legal 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 criminal legal system, LGBTQ+ youth often face more discrimination and abuse.

What We’re Doing:

  • 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 criminal legal systems.
  • Hosting Virtual Learning Sessions 
    These live, virtual sessions are intended to be a deeper dive into issues and/or considerations facing LGBTQ+ youth and young adults for all youth-serving professionals/care providers. Previous topics have included: LGBTQ+ BIPOC youth mental health, understanding the differences between depression and gender dysphoria, practical support for neurodiverse LGBTQ+ youth, and supporting family acceptance of their LGBTQ+ child to support family reunification
  • Hosting In-Person eQuality Community Convenings 
    eQuality Community Convenings focus on ways adults can collaboratively create safer and more affirming care for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults in their own region. The Convenings are rooted in community, and attendees share perspectives, questions, expertise and experiences in a conversation-based learning environment. This in-person event encourages people to be together in dialogue across sectors and agencies, including youth-serving professionals, caregivers, community leaders, and other stakeholders working to improve our response to LGBTQ+ young people.

If you are interested in learning more about our training and learning opportunities, or your community would like to learn more about partnering with CCYJ to host an eQuality Community Convening, please reach out to Becca at to learn more.

What We’ve Done: 

  • Listened 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.
  • Created a protocol for agencies to understand and support the specific needs of LGBTQ+ youth. We’ve developed the Protocol for Safe & Affirming Care for foster care and youth legal 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 the experiences and needs of these youth. We’re piloting the protocol in several counties, and hope to take it statewide so more LGBTQ+ youth can get on the pathway to healthy, stable adulthood.
  • Compiled an eQuality Final Evaluation Report. From Spring 2017 through Summer 2018, eQuality piloted implementation of the Protocol in three sites: King County Juvenile Court, Spokane County Juvenile Court, and the Adolescent, Legally Free, and Indian Child Welfare Act units of the Spokane office of Children’s Administration. MEM Consultants evaluated the pilot and provided a final evaluation report. This experience and evaluation provide valuable lessons and insights for expansion.