Being in foster care is difficult for any child, but it can be even more challenging for LGBT+ youth. Many young people have reported feeling they have to hide their sexual identity in their foster homes – which is why it’s important for foster carers to be open and accepting about all sexual orientations and gender identities.
How many LGBT+ youth are in care?
LGBT+ youth are overrepresented in foster care – while they represent an estimated 4.4% of the general population in the UK, the number in foster care is much higher.
Many factors contribute to this discrepancy. LGBT+ youth are more likely to be forced from their homes because of conflicts over sexual orientation or gender identity – in the US, it’s estimated that 26% of youth in foster care have had to leave their homes for this reason.
They are also more likely to be subject to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from family members (a staggering 30%), and to experience homelessness as a result of their sexual orientation (43% of homeless LGBT+ youth in the US are sleeping rough as they are not accepted by their family).
Foster carers offer vital support for LGBT+ youth
When you welcome a new foster child into your home, you don’t always know what they will be struggling with. Some people know very young that they are LGBT, while others will take a while to figure out who they are and how they want to express their identity.
You can support your foster child in finding their own path safely – no matter what it may be – by taking the following steps.
• Don’t make assumptions. Young people may still be figuring out who they are, so create a safe and open environment for them to discover their identity.
• Avoid pushing gender stereotypes. Let your foster child explore their interests without labels.
• Make information easily available. Your foster child may be more comfortable accessing resources independently to start, so having information around the home can make it easier for them to take the first steps on their own. It’s also a great way to promote acceptance and inclusion amongst children who aren’t LGBT+.
• Celebrate differences of all kinds and challenge any homophobic language or behaviours you encounter. This will show your foster child that you accept them as they are (even if they haven’t quite figured out who that is yet).
• Be patient. Coming out is a lifelong process and every child will handle it differently. Allow your foster child to come to you when they’re ready to talk.
Resources for LGBT+ youth and carers
There are many charities and organisations in the UK dedicated to supporting the LGBT+ community. Some that are particularly great for foster children and their families include:
• LGBT+ Youth in Care has valuable information for LGBT+ youth and foster carers alike.
• Mosaic Trust offers many resources for LGBT+ youth, including youth clubs and mentoring.
• Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT+ youth aged 16-25 who are living in crisis.
• The Proud Trust provides support groups, training for schools and other great resources for LGBT+ youth.
At Compass Fostering, we make it our mission to support diversity and create inclusive environments for all foster children. We welcome LGBT foster parents and offer support for foster families that includes training on how to talk to young people about LGBT+ issues.
You can change the life of an LGBT+ child by providing a safe and welcoming foster home. If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch with our team today.