Academic journal article Child Welfare

Bridges, Barriers, and Boundaries

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Bridges, Barriers, and Boundaries

Article excerpt

A Model Curriculum for Training, Youth Service Professionals to Provide Culturally Competent Service for Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Care

Special Issue Editors' Note: Typically, articles published in Child Welfare that address issues of training and staff development focus on an evaluation or review of existing curricula or models. But as is the case with so much of what surrounds the development of supportive care for LGBTQ youth, a comprehensive body of research studies, practice models, programmatic evaluation, and training curricula has yet to infiltrate the child welfare field. This special edition of Child Welfare, historically the first child welfare publication to incorporate many newly undertaken efforts to understand and attend to the needs of LGBTQ youth, is an effort to fill in some of the missing pieces of information the child welfare field needs to improve its treatment of LGBTQ youth in care.

In an effort to build a bridge of understanding that spans the gap between the needs of LGBTQ young people and the competence of the adults charged with their care, we have made the decision to veer from the traditional parameters of this journal to include, not an evaluation or review of existing training curricula, but an actual, and what we believe to be, a comprehensive training model. As stated in the introduction, no one training model, program, or policy holds the key to a system of care that fully embraces LGBTQ youth. But if we as a field are to make true progress toward a more compassionate, and a more competent system of care, then the increased understanding, knowledge, and self-reflection that can result from participation in training on LGBTQ issues is a vital first step. Therefore, we offer the following training curriculum as a valuable tool-a resource for child welfare service providers to use to increase their understanding of the issues facing LGBTQ youth in care and enhance their capacity to better serve them.

-Rob Woronoffand Gerald P. Mallon

Although national statistics suggest that 5%-10% of youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), evidence suggests these youth make up a disproportionate part of the foster care pool because of the increased likelihood that they will be harassed, assaulted, disapproved of, or rejected by their families of origin (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 2001). Other studies estimate that 20%-42% of youths who become homeless each year are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. (Connoley, 2005). In addition, a study within the New York City child welfare system indicates that 78% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) youth were removed or ran away from their placements as a result of the hostility toward their inherent sexuality, gender identity, or gender expressions (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund).

In spite of the overwhelming evidence that LGBT youth are present-and underserved-in the child welfare system, few programs offer, let alone mandate, training for staff regarding the unique needs of these youth (Mallon, 2001, 2000). Even fewer programs explore the intersection of staff's personal values and beliefs with their ability to provide safe, affirming, and supportive care for this population of children.

In 2001, True Colors, Inc., Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services of Connecticut created The Safe Harbor Project, a partnership with the state's Department of Children and Families and the Connecticut Association of Foster & Adoptive Parents. The project is designed to ensure that the needs of LGBT youth are effectively and competently met across the spectrum of child welfare, including foster care, public and private congregate care programs such as group homes and shelters, residential treatment facilities, and detention. Staff training was and continues to be an integral component of this project.

This article describes a model curriculum for providing staff training. …

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