Academic journal article Child Welfare

Out of the System and onto the Streets: LGBTQ-Identified Youth Experiencing Homelessness with Past Child Welfare System Involvement

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Out of the System and onto the Streets: LGBTQ-Identified Youth Experiencing Homelessness with Past Child Welfare System Involvement

Article excerpt

In 2015, approximately 21,000 youth in the United States became emancipated-commonly referred to as "aged out"-from the foster care system; neither being adopted nor reunified with their family of origin, and were therefore expected to live independent lives (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). In addition to the youth who aged out, nearly 1,000 youth ran away from foster care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Over the past two decades, studies have consistently indicated a strong association between experiencing homelessness and having prior placement in the foster care system (Zlotnick, 2009). Youth who age out of foster care are among the populations at the greatest risk of becoming homeless (Dworsky, Dillman, Dion, Coffee-Borden & Rosenau, 2012) with as many as half of youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability within 18 months of their exit from the foster care system (Kushel, Yen, Gee, & Courtney, 2007). While precise population statistics on the number of youth experiencing homelessness are difficult to ascertain, it is estimated that approximately 1.24 million will face an episode of homelessness in a given year (National Center for Homeless Education, 2014), representing approximately seven percent of the total population who are homeless (Henry, Watt, Rosenthal, & Shivji, 2016).

For youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ), or as non-heterosexual, or gender expansive, the risk of becoming homeless or facing housing instability is greater than that faced by their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. Youth who identify as LGBTQare less likely to be adopted or reunited with their family than heterosexual, cisgender youth, with those who identify as transgender or gender-expansive having the least success achieving permanency (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013; Jacobs & Freundlich, 2006), contributing to less security and greater risk for becoming homeless. Studies indicate that between 20 and 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ (Cochran, Stewart, Ginzler, & Cauce, 2002; Durso & Gates, 2012; Quintana, Rosenthal, & Kehely, 2010; Van Leeuwen et al., 2006; Wright et al., 2016), which is a significant overrepresentation when compared to general population estimates. Furthermore, youth of color are overrepresented among youth who are LGBTQand experiencing homelessness (Choi, Wilson, Shelton, & Gates, 2015). To date, there is a significant dearth of published research available to understand, draw attention to, provide appropriate services to, and effectively advocate for a population who, although demonstrate large levels of resilience, face significant risks to their well-being.

For youth who identify as LGBTQand have previously been in the foster care system, or have some other form of child welfare system involvement, even more limited attention has been paid to their experience and well-being (McCormick, Schmidt, & Terrazas, 2017). While these youth share common experiences with their heterosexual, cisgender child welfare system-involved (CWS-I) counterparts (i.e., histories of trauma, poor relationships with parents/caregivers), they also have distinctive experiences related to their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. While some research does exist on the experiences of youth who were previously CWS-I and who are experiencing homelessness, we are not aware of any studies that focus on sexual orientation and gender identity. This study aims to describe characteristics and experiences of youth who are LGBTQwho have previous child welfare system-involvement and are currently experiencing homelessness.

Literature Review

Children and youth with previous child welfare system-involvement are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2005). A large body of literature highlights the increased risk for homelessness and subsequently poor social, educational, health, and financial outcomes among youth who age out of the foster care system (Bender, Yang, Ferguson, &Thompson, 2015). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.