We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon: The Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adolescents in Child Welfare Systems

We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon: The Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adolescents in Child Welfare Systems

We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon: The Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adolescents in Child Welfare Systems

We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon: The Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adolescents in Child Welfare Systems

Synopsis

Drawing on over twenty years of child welfare experience and extensive interviews with 54 gay and lesbian young people who lived in out-of-home-care child welfare settings in three North American cities -- Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto -- Gerald Mallon presents narratives of marginalized young people trying to find the "right fit." Mallon permits the voices of these young people to guide the research, allowing them to tell their own stories and to suggest what is important in their own words. Their experiences help the reader to begin to understand the discrepancies between the myths and misinformation about gay and lesbian adolescents and their realities in the out-of-home child welfare systems in which they live. The first comprehensive examination of the experiences of gay and lesbian youths in the child welfare system, We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon makes solid recommendations to social work practitioners as well as to policy makers about how they can provide a competent practice for gay and lesbian adolescents, and offers a methods chapter which will be useful in classroom instruction.

Excerpt

Gay and lesbian history is rooted in decades of hiding and secrecy, when the mere whisper that one was not a stalwart heterosexual could destroy a career or a life. the keepers of public morals sought to keep those who strayed from this position firmly in line. But consequential shifts over time in cultural openness to gays and lesbians have taken place. a trio of events -- the groundbreaking work of the late Dr. Evelyn Hooker (1957, 1967), which presented rigorous scientific research to provide indisputable evidence that homosexuality is not a mental illness; the impact of the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 in New York City, generally regarded as the birth of the gay and lesbian liberation movement; and the elimination of "homosexuality" from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (APA 1974) in 1973 -- caused society to slowly begin to change its perceptions of homosexuality.

Concurrently, throughout the late 1970s, as social activism in the gay/lesbian communities were nurturing the growth of a new sense of dignity among homosexuals, adult lesbians/gays became increasingly willing to identify themselves openly (Schneider 1991:133). These factors converged to sanction those adolescents who previously would have remained silent to identify themselves openly as gay or lesbian, and to others to express their uncertainty about their own sexual orientation. in light of this ostensible openness, some child welfare practitioners became aware of the existence of gay/lesbian youths on their caseloads, many of whom were involved with social services for reasons other than their sexual orientation.

We Don't Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon explores the lives of fiftyfour gay/lesbian young people who, at the time this study was conducted, were living in an out-of-home-care child welfare setting. I have written this book about them because I wanted others to learn about their perspectives and experiences. the central theme of this work focuses on the multiple ex-

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