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June 2024Vol. 25, No. 5Scoping Review Explores Research on LGBTQ Youth and Caregivers in Child Welfare

Individuals who identify as members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) community are prevalent in child welfare, with LGBTQ youth being overrepresented in care and an increasing number of LGBTQ people becoming foster parents. A scoping review published in Child and Family Social Work examines research on child welfare practice with LGBTQ youth, caregivers, and foster caregivers.

The review is anchored in the following research questions:

  • What is known about the practices of child welfare services toward LGBTQ youth and caregivers?
  • What is known about LGBTQ foster parents?

Forty-five studies published between 2000 and 2021 met the inclusion criteria, with the majority taking place in the United States and after 2014. The included studies are organized into three theme categories: LGBTQ youth in contact with child welfare services, foster parents, and child welfare practice from an LGBTQ perspective.

While the review shows that published literature about LGBTQ youth and caregivers is increasing, it also shows there are relatively few empirical peer-reviewed studies on the topic. The findings indicate that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in child welfare and have an increased risk for adverse health outcomes compared with non-LGBTQ youth. However, there are limited data on the number of LGBTQ youth in the system and no studies estimate the number of foster parents who identify as LGBTQ.

The review highlights several areas where more research is needed, including research on the following topics:

  • Caseworker attitudes, knowledge, and experiences working with LGBTQ individuals
  • Non-LGBTQ foster parents of LGBTQ youth
  • Interventions to support LGBTQ youth
  • Transgender and intersex people within child welfare
  • The intersection of being LGBTQ and seeking health care

More information is available in the review, "What is Known About the LGBTQ Perspective in Child Welfare Services: A Scoping Review."