• November 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 10

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LGBTQ Youth in Maryland Education, Foster Care, Juvenile Justice

A June 2014 Youth Equality Alliance (YEA) report, Living in the Margins, examines the challenges lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth often encounter as they navigate the education, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems in Maryland. The report also highlights the State's current efforts to address the needs of this vulnerable and underserved youth population, and it provides recommendations for addressing these issues.

Bullying from peers, rejection (or fear of rejection) from family, and lack of assistance from misinformed and/or prejudiced school personnel and related professionals can have dire consequences for this marginalized population. For example, LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care settings may encounter hostility or indifference from case workers, foster families, and other youth because of institutional bias, lack of understanding and training, and intolerance. As a result, LGBTQ youth may be removed from or run away from their foster or group homes. Data from national studies are alarming and highlight these issues:

  • LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system (approximately 17.5 percent compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population).
  • Three out of four LGBTQ youth experience prejudicial treatment by foster care service providers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Approximately 70 percent of LGBTQ youth report being victims of physical violence in State-run group homes, and 78 percent report being removed or running away from placements.
  • Approximately 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Recommendations for addressing these myriad challenges are provided for each area—education, foster care, and juvenile justice—and include three or more overarching recommendations that are presented in more specific bulleted lists of recommendations. Regarding the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth involved in the child welfare system, YEA proposes the following actions for the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR):

  • Identify the needs of LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system and develop appropriate resources:
    • Conduct needs assessments of LGBTQ youth in care to identify gaps in policy and service delivery
    • Develop/expand counseling programs and community resources for LGBTQ youth
    • Ensure that child welfare staff and foster parents are made aware of the LGBTQ-specific agency and community resources that are available
  • Develop, adopt, and enforce statewide LGBTQ-specific nondiscrimination policies in all child welfare agencies:
    • Create comprehensive policies that provide guidance for working with LGBTQ youth
    • Mandate LGBTQ training for State and local child welfare and related staff and foster parents, and make completion of the training a condition of employment/licensing
  • Create points of contact throughout the child welfare system for youth and professionals:
    • Develop a confidential grievance procedure for LGBTQ youth reporting harassment and designate an ombudsman to oversee this grievance process
    • Designate an LGBTQ agency coordinator and local LGBTQ staff liaisons

Appendices of terminology and report contributors are also included.

Living in the Margins: A Report on the Challenges of LGBTQ Youth in Maryland Education, Foster Care, and Juvenile Justice Systems is the first report developed by YEA. The full report is available on the Free State Legal Project website:

http://freestatelegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/YEA-Report-2014.pdf (1 MB)

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