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June 2024Vol. 25, No. 5Using Technology to Create Safe Spaces for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Reunification

Written by Children's Bureau Division of State Systems staff

Child welfare agencies aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youth who are working toward family reunification. A secure environment is especially needed during the reunification of youth who identify as LGBTQIA2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, Two-Spirit, and other diverse gender and sexual identities).

According to, LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in child welfare systems, even though they are likely to be underreported because they risk harassment and abuse if their LGBTQ+ identity is disclosed.1 Studies have found that about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+ and 5 percent as transgender, in comparison to 11 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of youth not in foster care.2

Furthermore, LGBTQ+ youth of color are disproportionately overrepresented and stay longer in child welfare systems while also having an increased risk of experiencing discrimination and violence compared to their peers.3

Reunification Challenges

These young LGBTQIA2S+ individuals often face unique challenges and barriers during the reunification process:

  • Lack of understanding: Some adults or other professionals involved in the youth's life may lack awareness about LGBTQIA2S+ issues.
  • Stigma or discrimination: Fear of stigma prevents some LGBTQIA2S+ youth from seeking help or asking important questions.
  • Access to information: Some LGBTQIA2S+ youth may need digital resources to navigate relevant topics or locate other youth in similar situations.

However, technology can play a pivotal role in helping to address their information needs, foster safe and inclusive environments, and reduce some potential reunification barriers.

Safe Digital Spaces

Today’s technology can provide a lifeline by creating safe digital spaces where LGBTQIA2S+ youth can connect with their peers, find support, and express their authentic selves, such as the following examples:

  • Safe space apps have been developed specifically for LGBTQIA2S+ youth to provide information on local resources, legal rights, and mental health support. Having access to this material can empower LGBTQIA2S+ youth to better advocate for themselves during the reunification process.
  • Mental health apps can provide virtual counseling and therapy. These tools allow LGBTQIA2S+ youth to access mental health services discreetly to address their emotional well-being during the reunification process.
  • Online support groups can offer safe spaces for LGBTQIA2S+ youth to share their experiences, seek advice, and build connections. Some platforms also allow anonymity, which can be crucial for those youth who fear judgment but need the advice of others sharing related reunification events.

Technology for Empowerment

During the reunification process, LGBTQIA2S+ youth can also investigate the following youth-centric technology:

  • Interactive websites: This technology engages youth with topics such as frequently asked questions, success stories, relevant advice, and video testimonials from LGBTQIA2S+ individuals who have navigated the reunification process successfully.
  • Youth advisory boards: Some digital platforms facilitate virtual youth advisory boards where LGBTQIA2S+ youth can actively participate in shaping child welfare policies and technology systems. Their insights can drive positive changes for the reunification process of current and future LGBTQIA2S+ youth.
  • Learning resources: Webinars, training modules, and e-learning resources that offer relevant LGBTQIA2S+ youth topics are available online.

Adult and Caregiver Resources

To learn more about LGBTQIA2S+ youth concerns, the following adult and caregiver resources may be available:

  • Online training modules: Adults in a youth's life or interested child welfare professionals can access trainings or online modules on topics such as LGBTQIA2S+ cultural competency, pronoun usage, and self-care.
  • Virtual workshops: Hosted webinars and workshops held for parents, kin (including maternal and paternal relatives as well as fictive kin), foster parents, and child welfare professionals can bring understanding and acceptance of LGBTQIA2S+ youth as well as a successful reunification outcome.


Technology has the potential to transform lives and improve the reunification process for LGBTQIA2S+ youth. By creating safe digital spaces, breaking down barriers, empowering youth, and helping their adult caregivers, technology can help ensure that every young person feels seen, heard, and valued. Let’s embrace technology as a positive catalyst for change to build a more inclusive future for everyone.

Additional Resources




2 Baams, Wilson, & Russell, 2019; Matarese et al., 2021; Sandfort, 2020

3 Huggins et al., 2019; Conron & Wilson, 2019; Wilson & Kastanis, 2015