Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

The Overrepresentation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender Youth within the Child Welfare to Juvenile Justice Crossover Population

Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

The Overrepresentation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender Youth within the Child Welfare to Juvenile Justice Crossover Population

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

A new national study shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, gender nonconforming, and transgender (LGBQ/GNCT) youth are overrepresented among youth in the juvenile justice system who have been involved in the child welfare system1 These findings essentially document that the percentage of LGBQ/GNCT youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems is higher than the percentage of LGBQ/ GNCT youth in the general population.

These youth are sometimes referred to as "dually-involved" or "crossover" youth. Generally, the term "dually-involved" refers to youth who are supervised in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system at the same time.2 The term "crossover" is a broader term that refers to youth who have been involved in the child welfare system prior to or concurrent with juvenile justice system involvement.3 The authors of this report surveyed and interviewed youth who were currently in the juvenile justice system and used two survey questions to identify child welfare involvement: "Have you ever been removed from your home because someone was hurting you?" and "Have you ever been placed in a group or foster home because someone was hurting you?" The second question was designed to identify when escalated child welfare action was taken as not all home removals result in a placement into a group or foster home. Since these questions capture two different child welfare system actions but cannot determine if youth have a current child welfare case, the broader term "crossover" youth is most appropriate.

Additionally, the authors distinguish foster home or group home placement "because someone hurt them" from foster home or group home placement "because they got in trouble." This is an important distinction for youth in the juvenile justice system who can be sent to an out-of-home placement by the dependency (child welfare) or delinquency (juvenile justice) court. The same does not hold true for child welfare youth, unless they become juvenile justice involved. While both the juvenile justice and the child welfare systems have the agency to remove youth from their homes, the reasons differ. The juvenile justice system typically removes a young person from the home as part of their court sentence or because a youth's behavior is "escalating" and resulting in violations of probations. These reasons typically do not meet the threshold of a child welfare home removal, such as physical abuse or neglect. For this study, only child welfare removals were considered.

This study surveyed youth in seven juvenile detention facilities. Results show that lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning ("LGBQ") or gender nonconforming and transgender ("GNCT") youth in the juvenile justice system are at least three times more likely to have been removed from their home than straight and gender conforming youth and at least five times more likely to be placed in a group or foster home compared with straight and gender conforming youth.4

II. DETAILED FINDINGS FROM YOUTH SURVEYS

Youth in juvenile detention facilities were surveyed and Table 1 illustrates that child welfare involvement is not consistent across all sexual orientations. LGBQ youth are three times more likely to have been removed from their home than straight youth: only 11% percent of straight youth in the juvenile justice system had a history of being removed from their home by social workers compared to 30% of LGBQ youth.

Table 1 shows even greater disparities when looking at child welfare system placement into group or foster homes (as opposed to juvenile justice placement). Only 3% of straight youth in the juvenile justice system had been previously placed in a group or foster home while 23% of LGBQ youth had. This means that LGBQ youth are more than seven times more likely to be placed in a group or foster home than straight youth.

Aside from sexual orientation, the authors were interested to see whether different aspects of gender expression and identity shaped child welfare histories. …

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