With nearly one in five foster kids in Los Angeles County identifying as LGBTQ, a much higher percentage than in the general youth population, the Board of Supervisors took a major step to analyze its services and support for these youth in order to help them develop the strength and confidence they need to become successful adults.
This vulnerable group is often not identified within the County’s child welfare system, leading to fewer targeted services and support staff who may lack the training necessary to support the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.
These kids find themselves in the foster care system for many of the same reasons as their non-LGBTQ counterparts — often abuse, neglect and parental substance abuse. But many also experience additional trauma as a result of rejection or mistreatment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
On Tuesday, the Board unanimously passed a motion by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis to identify ways to improve outcomes for LGBTQ youth in the County’s care — including targeted services, increased support for families, and enhanced staff training.
After the 5-0 vote, Kuehl said, “This motion lays the groundwork for the County to really serve these young people, including tailored services delivered by well-trained and culturally competent staff, and identification of supportive, affirming caretakers. I am proud of the leadership role LA County is taking in addressing the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth.”
The motion directs the Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, Mental Health, Public Health, and Health Services to report back on how they can improve care specifically for LGBTQ youth. The report will include an inventory and assessment of existing services, tailored programs and training already underway, information on foster family recruitment and family finding efforts that would lead to more affirming placements, and recommendations for innovative treatment models and improved training for staff.
“Today’s motion will ensure the delivery of more sensitive and supportive services to this population of young people who both deserve and need affirming care to help them thrive,” said Solis.
Tuesday’s Board action was just the latest in improving care for LGBTQ kids receiving support and care from LA County.
In October of 2015, Kuehl introduced a motion to hire an expert consultant to focus exclusively on support for LGBTQ youth in the County’s child welfare system. The consultant worked with the Office of Child Protection and other departments to conduct a thorough assessment of all County offices who serve LGBTQ youth.
The result was the Los Angeles County Youth Preparedness Scan, a comprehensive report by Khush Cooper and Associates that outlined opportunities for improvement in care, and needs for additional resources and staff training. The report also showed inconsistencies in policies and practices across departments, and a need for a more consistent and culturally competent education for County staff on issues relevant and essential to the LGBTQ community.
“All the young people in our foster care system face incredible challenges, but the nearly 20% who identify as LGBTQ are in great need of targeted support to ensure they’re properly cared for, valued and respected,” Kuehl said.