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Sexual minority youth less likely to exit foster care

Jessica Fish and her colleagues published a study presenting sexual minority youth as an overrepresented population in foster care, child welfare and out-of-home placement

Preceding research has shown that sexual minority populations such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and same-sex attracted youth are overrepresented in child welfare services. Compared to heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 2.5 times more likely to end up in foster care and stay there. Faculty Associate Jessica Fish and her colleagues analyzed national data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and from wave three of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II. Their findings were recently published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.  

Sexual minority youth have more probability to end up in foster care because of parental rejection since people are coming out at younger ages, Dr. Fish explains. “Research from other scholars suggests that sexual minority youth experience discrimination from foster care parents, siblings, and staff. . . . Therefore, a system that is designed to protect children may actually continue to harm them”. Further analysis shows that sexual minority youth are more likely to remain in the child welfare system than their heterosexual peers. One possible explanation is that once removed from their unsafe homes, sexual minority youth are less likely to get reunified with their families or be adopted.

These findings report the poor treatment received by sexual minority youth in foster care, and contribute to the improvement of the child welfare system by identifying the need of the LGBTQ youth population. Also, the authors highlight the importance of education and training for child welfare professionals and families since supportive placement and reunification can be a safe and viable option.

Fish, J.N., Baams, L., Wojciak, A.S., Russell, S.T. (2019). "Are sexual minority youth overrepresented in foster care, child welfare, and out-of-home placement? Findings from nationally representative data," Child Abuse & Neglect, 89, 203-211;

See the complete article in the Child Abuse & Neglect Journal