June 23, 2023

Pride month: Challenges for LGBTQI+ children and young people in care

‘Pride month: Challenges for LGBTQI+ children and young people in care’ blog article was written by Tayla Howard (she/her), Team Leader of Therapeutic Services and OurSPACE NSW at Australian Childhood Foundation.

June is recognised as Pride Month, a time of celebration and commemoration of the LGBTQI+ community. Pride originated because of the Stonewall riots in June 1969, igniting a liberation movement that ultimately echoed worldwide.

In 2023, Pride continues to celebrate how far we have come and a protest seeking further change and acceptance. Working in the out-of-home care space, this blog will focus on the needs of LGBTQI+ children in foster and kinship care and the challenges they continue to face.

A research brief conducted by the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care (CETC) in 2019 identified that LGBTQI+ children and young people are overrepresented in out-of-home and residential care. However, there is little research into their experiences in care. In the OurSPACE program, some of the challenges we see for LGBTQI+ children and young people mirror the challenges outlined in the CETC research.

Challenges for LGBTQI+ young people in care:

  • Repeatedly needing to “come out” to adults. With a high turnover of caseworkers, changing placements, new carers, youth workers, educators etc. record keeping and information about children’s stories can be lost due to changes in case management providers, meaning children and young people are responsible for repeatedly retelling their stories and repeatedly coming out.
  • Placements with caregivers who are unsupportive of their gender or sexuality. This may result in placement breakdowns, young people who are unsafe to “come out” or lack of access to supportive adults or services.
  • Peer challenges. Isolation and disconnection from peers are already an increased challenge for children and young people in care and this is exacerbated for LGBTQI+ young people whose peers may misunderstand or judge.
  • Assessments and policies that are not gender-affirming. Case management systems, psychological reports, school reports etc., that do not allow professionals to write and document young people’s information in gender-affirming ways, such as changing pronouns or names.
  • Placements based on a child or young persons assigned gender at birth. Moving into residential placements or placement matching based on the child’s assigned gender at birthmay be unsafe or inappropriate.

These challenges exacerbate the distress, increased sense of shame and poor mental health outcomes that children and young people in care are already experiencing. Research by the CETC shows LGBTQI+ children and young people have poorer outcomes post their out-of-home care experience.

This Pride month, as we celebrate the steps forward for the LGBTQI+ community, it is crucial that we don’t ignore the immense challenges some of the most vulnerable in our community continue to face. LGBTQI+ children and young people in care deserve the love, compassion, and our continued fight for better support, better understanding of their needs and access to service provision that prioritises them.

Further reading:

The needs of LGBTIQ young people in out-of-home care – Research brief

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