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June 2024Vol. 25, No. 5Beyond the Basics of LGBTQIA2S+ Inclusivity: Resources and Supports to Meet Child Welfare Agencies Where They Are

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

Children and young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, Two-Spirit, or other gender or sexual identity (LGBTQIA2S+) are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system (Capacity Building Center for States, 2023). This calls on providers across the child welfare network to respond, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to progress toward more inclusive LGBTQIA2S+ policies and practices for individual child welfare agencies.

Some agencies may just be getting started, while others may have many years of experience developing and implementing inclusive policies and practices. The political climates of the states in which the child welfare agencies operate may also contribute to the disparity in policies and practices among jurisdictions. While the number of pro-equality bills enacted in 2023 more than doubled, the rise of anti-LGBTQIA2S+ health and safety bills nearly quadrupled (Human Rights Campaign, 2024).

As a result, a wide variety of resources is needed, especially for those agencies looking to advance their knowledge and practice related to the needs of LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people beyond foundational awareness. This curated collection of resources can help meet agencies where they are—regardless of levels of experience, progress toward more inclusive practices and policies, or political climates—to help them create and sustain more inclusive environments for LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families.

Staff Training

Child welfare agencies seeking to progress beyond awareness of LGBTQIA2S+ information and challenges can start by offering staff training designed to raise cultural competencies and antidiscrimination requirements (Human Rights Campaign, 2023).

The Capacity Building Center for States (Center for States) provides practical information about the needs and challenges faced by LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people at child welfare agencies, including helping agencies do the following:

  • Understand where they are in providing an affirming culture and climate for LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families
  • Learn how to hold frank and open conversations with staff and caregivers regularly to create a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people
  • Make plans for improving the well-being of LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people

Creating an Affirming Culture and Climate for LGBTQIA2S+ Children and Young People in Child Welfare is a Center for States resource to assess agency culture and climate for LGBTQIA2S+ people and learn how to hold frank conversations about LGBTQIA2S+ topics with staff and caregivers. The Center for States also has resources to help agencies create a more affirming culture and climate, increase authentic engagement with families and young people, and engage a diverse and inclusive team, as well as tools to support agencies with serving LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families and implement a more inclusive agency climate for these populations.  

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers training through the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center, which includes numerous learning resources such as webinars, publications, learning modules, toolkits, videos, and a glossary (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s All Children - All Families is a resource for "child welfare agencies seeking training, technical assistance, and model policies for improving practice" when working with LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people (Human Rights Campaign, 2023). It has established benchmarks of LGBTQ+ inclusion that consider the realities of different levels of progress toward inclusive child welfare policies.

Its three levels—building foundation for inclusion, solid foundation for inclusion, and innovative inclusion—progress from basics like improving inclusivity in forms, paperwork, and messaging to intermediate steps like establishing sustainable practices for both young people and parents to advanced steps like serving as inclusivity allies and leaders in the broader community (Human Rights Campaign, 2023). Agencies can participate in the All Children – All Families Agency Self-Assessment (free) or learn more about the National Training Program (fee for service at a sliding scale) (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Supports

Agencies that have moved beyond the basics may be considering implementing more intersectional supports, such as those around substance abuse and mental health. The Center for States has resources that prioritize cross-system partnerships and ensure children and young people receive vital mental health services.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a variety of training curricula and resources, such as A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals; A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children; and Helping Families Support Their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Children (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, n.d.).

A particularly important mental health concern for LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people is the risk of suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 14 and the third leading cause among those aged 15 to 24. LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers (The Trevor Project, 2024).

The Trevor Project, a national organization dedicated to ending suicide among LGBTQIA2S+ young people, provides crisis services, research, education and public awareness, and advocacy. The Trevor Project's CARE (Connect, Accept, Respond, Empower) is an interactive and intensive suicide-prevention training that provides adults, including child welfare professionals, kindergarten–12 school staff and educators, higher education staff and faculty, and health-care professionals with an overview of suicide among LGBTQIA2S+ children and young people and "the different environmental stressors that contribute to their heightened risk for suicide" (The Trevor Project, n.d.).

Child welfare professionals can promote greater inclusivity for LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families in myriad ways. Whether an agency is just getting started on its journey toward more inclusive practices and culture or seeking ways to add to existing services, numerous resources and organizations are ready to meet them where they are to provide a more welcoming child welfare system for all.


The following Center for States resources can help agencies create an affirming culture and climate for LGBTQIA2S+ young people and families:

Additional Resources

The following resources and organizations present research, data, and policy suggestions that child welfare professionals and agencies can use to create an inclusive culture for LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families:



Capacity Building Center for States. (2023). Creating an affirming culture and climate for LGBTQIA2S+ children, young people, and families in child welfare.

Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). All Children - All Families: Participation process.

Human Rights Campaign. (2023). The state of LGBTQ+ inclusion in child welfare: 2023 change-makers report.

Human Rights Campaign. (2024). 2023 state equality index.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+).

The Trevor Project. (n.d.). LGBTQ+ suicide prevention & sensitivity training.

The Trevor Project. (2024). Facts about suicide among LGBTQ+ young people.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). LGBTQI+ resources.