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Study: 1 in 5 kids in Los Angeles County foster care identifies as LGBTQ

Saturday, August 30, 2014
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LOS ANGELES — One in five Los Angeles County foster youths identifies as LGBTQ, according to a study released this week by researchers at UCLA’s Williams Institute.

The report, entitled “Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Los Angeles County Foster Care: Assessing Disproportionality and Disparities,” is the first population-based survey aimed at measuring sexual orientation and gender identity of youth in any foster care system.

Key findings from the study include:

  • 19% of foster youth identify as LGBTQ (13.4% – LGB or questioning; 5.6% transgender); that’s as much as twice the estimated percentage of youth not in foster care who are LGBTQ.
  • Generally, LGBTQ foster youth mirror the racial/ethnic demographic of all foster youth in Los Angeles County; the majority are people of color. The study found that over 86% were Latino, Black, or API identified.
  • More than 18% of all respondents reported experiencing discrimination related to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, some of whom don’t identify as LGBTQ.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to live in a group home and have a higher average number of home placements.
  • LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to report being treated poorly by the foster care system.
  • The percentage of LGBTQ youth who were hospitalized for emotional reasons (13.5%) was nearly triple the percentage of similar hospitalizations for non-LGBTQ youth (4.2%), but physical reasons for hospitalization were reported less often.

The study was funded as part of a landmark $13.3 million, five-year grant awarded to the Los Angeles LGBT Center (the Center) as part of the federal Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII) and co-authored by scholars at UCLA’s Williams Institute and Holarchy Consulting.

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“Historically, many of the LGBTQ youth who turn to us for a safe place to live have aged out of the foster system, don’t have the skills or resources to make it on their own, and would otherwise be homeless” said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of The (Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian) Center. “So this study supports our long-held belief that LGBTQ youth are not only overrepresented in the foster system but extremely disadvantaged within that system.”

Jean said the study “validates the importance of our ongoing work to develop a new model of care for LGBTQ foster youth; they remain some of the most vulnerable, and forgotten, in our community.”

“When finished, we hope this model will be replicated in cities around the country, because there’s no reason to believe the problems for LGBTQ foster youth are unique to Los Angeles,” she said.

The full study is here.

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