LGBT Youth Face Significant Challenges In Foster Care


In 2012 the Williams Institute, UCLA’s national think tank, published a study estimating that up to 40% of homeless youths (minors between the ages of 12-17) identified themselves as LGBT. An overwhelming 68% of participants in the study reported having experienced rejection from their families and about 54% were abused as a result of their being LGBT. Moreover, over 80% of the respondents to the study were racial minorities.

More often than not, queer youth across the country make a disproportionate percentage of cities’ homeless populations. Despite that fact many cities, like the District of Columbia, suspect rely on statistical reporting methods that are likely underreporting the actual numbers. Most of the research being done on the makeup of homeless youth populations relies on numbers reported by adoption networks that queer kids are avoiding.

In a study published earlier this week the Williams Institute found that on average, LGBT adoptees were twice as likely to experience poor treatment within the foster care system as compared to their straight-identified peers. Similar to D.C., LA is dealing with an incredibly large homeless queer youth problem and a dangerous shortage on shelters to house the population. The study, according to chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT Center Lorri L. Jean [pictured below], is the first of many steps necessary to draw attention to a group of at-risk people that are generally invisible.

Jean"We need to know who these kids are because only if we know who they are can we help them," she told the LA Times. "People refer to it as the 'dirty little secret' that there are so many LGBTQ kids in foster care, but nobody's been able to document it."

In addition to publishing statistics that could better inform the ways in which public resources could be better allocated to service the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans youths within Los Angeles,  the authors of the study hope to spread awareness within the youth community that they are not alone.


  1. says

    I don’t care whether or not they are “OK with” the terminology: It is abusive to refer to children as “queer youth.” When you indulge in that kind of hipster usage, you give bigots permission to think it’s acceptable to fling slurs at us. In this case, at the youngest and most vulnerable of us. Just like a racist who spends time around Black people who exchange the N-word, and comes away thinking it’s now cool to use racial slurs, a homophobe will react the same way. (And don’t give me any of that “in-group/out-group” BS! Double standards never work.) I know you’re going to ignore me, but I’m saying it anyhow: Please stop doing this!!!

  2. Sander says

    Agree with the Stuffed Bear. I think it is questionable even when a gay adult self-identifies that way. To put the queer label on a kid without his consent is abuse.

    Also I should mention is research out of my country Denmark showing that significant factor in LGB youth stress and suicidality is perception that by coming out, he or she is labeled and is marked as different from peers and family. Studies covered only young LGB students not T. This harm appears even in the absence of bullying when the labeling is not intended as malicious. So it seems that we should be bending over to assure these kids that being gay does not make them queer and does not make them fundamentally different from their peers and family members. Assure them that being gay is one part of life, not wall that separates.

  3. says

    First, bravo to Stuffed and Sander for daring challenge the Linguistic Chic nonsense of the Q-word. Second, while I’m sure there’s a lot of truth here, particularly in the discomfort of foster families who discover their ward is non-gender conforming, buying into the “Williams Institute’s” self-created mythology as a “think tank” is not supported by any drilling down of their various “studies” which demonstrates that they often pull numbers and conclusions out of their asses. E.g., I can’t speak to other cities, but here in Homeless-permeated San Francisco “80%” of homeless youth are definitely NOT “racial minorities.”

  4. Jake says

    The biggest obstacles to being gay don’t occur in adulthood, they occur in adolescence. Gay teens face odds that their straight contemporaries just don’t have to worry about. I hope the reality of gay youths becomes more apparent to a wider audience because discrimination and hate influences the young far more often than the older.

  5. Ryan says

    I always thought it was hypocritical of the gay community to ‘reclaim’ the word queer when it’s still very much used in a derogatory way. At the same time words like tranny is forbidden when i rarely ever hear that word being used as a slur. You’re either ok with reclaiming whatever words you see fit, or you aren’t.

  6. Questioning... says

    did I learn something new in the comments…

    I always thought the “Q” was for questioning

    questioning someone sexuality made more sense thatn queer…

    will I learned something new…

  7. Derrick from Philly says

    @ KEVINVT,

    thank you. I agree. I had to come to work today (Saturday). I’m sorry I read these comments.

    You want to know about LGT youths’experiences in foster care or homeless shelters– just watch “Paris Is Burning”. Eventhough the classic documentary (by Jennie Livingston) was released in 1991–things haven’t changed much.

    If I had a partner in life I would try foster parenting for LGT youth. (deep sigh) I’d have to have a great partner (husband) who could be a great parent. I’m being honest because I know I couldn’t do it by myself.

  8. says

    Do any of you actually DO any work or outreach with youth? I have, for years, and the reason so many Queer Youth SELF_IDENTIFY as Queer Youth is because they’re growing up feeling empowered by what makes them different from the masses.

    these are not kids growing up with the dream some of you seem to have, which reads to be “appear normal, like everyone else, no different” – i’m a self-identifying gay *and* Queer man, and i’ve been identifying as such since i was, yes, a YOUTH.
    QUEER – from a different point of view. a deviation from the expected or perceived “norm” – unique – unusual – less common.

    so stop being so upset that younger generations are being empowered by what makes them different. embracing it, loving it, celebrating it.
    your obsession with the strength of people decades younger than you is pathetic.

    now, onto the ACTUAL story: it’s a big deal, and in the world of adoptions, too. simply put – if you’re anti-gay, you shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, or be a foster parent. it’s that simple. it should be among the top criteria in screening prospective parents.

    but hey – take a look at the first few commenters. they don’t care about issues. they’ve angrily rambled on and on because young people are feeling strong in SELF-identifying as Queer. Basically, you care more about your own petty feelings for a word than you do about….well…actual issues facing youth. #pathetic

  9. says

    and if your (flawed) logic in obsessing over the word “QUEER” is that “it’s been used as a slur” – here’s the deal: know what word was used when i was being slammed into the lockers, and having rocks thrown at me when i walked home from school as a kid? “GAY” – that’s the word I had thrown at me. With malice. Am i now a grown adult demanding nobody say “GAY” because it reminds me of being beaten up as a child? No. So if you gents in here could act more like men than boys, and buck up, it’d be appreciated. Queer Youth are not trying to blend in the way some of you have worked (and likely failed) at for so long. Stop being upset that they’re embracing it.

  10. Tyler says

    Oh hey Rick. See you’re posting as me again. If you’re trying to wound Derrick, I suggest not posting as someone who wishes him no ill will. You’re really losing your grip.

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