LGBTQ youth face poorer conditions in the child welfare system, even as more LGBTQ youth end up in the system than their non-LGBTQ counterparts, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.
“People have been concerned for some time that LGBTQ youth are over-represented in the child welfare system, but there has been little evidence—until now,” said researcher Stephen T. Russell via a press release. Russell is the chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin.
Using data from the California Healthy Kids Survey from 2013 to 2015, researchers zeroed in on 593,241 students aged 10-18 across 1,211 schools.
The study had a near equal number of female- and male-identified students, with just over half identifying as Hispanic, and an additional 24.6% as white non-Hispanic. Just over 40% additionally identified as multiracial.
Researchers discovered that 30% of those living in foster care were LGBTQ. An additional 25% were living in unstable housing — that is a motel, shelter, a friend’s house, or similar conditions.
What’s more, the researchers discovered that when they compared these LGBTQ youth in unstable housing situations to heterosexual youth in stable housing, the former showed poorer school function, poorer mental health, and higher incidences of tobacco, cannabis, and alcohol use.
LGBTQ youth currently in foster care also fared poorly, reporting more examples of victimization, more fights at school, and greater mental health issues that both heterosexual youth in foster care as well as LGBTQ youth in stable housing.
Transgender youth in particular fared poorly in foster care and unstable housing.
The findings from the University of Texas in Austin back up similar claims from the same research team, presented in Child Abuse and Neglect.
When they looked at data from both the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II, they found that LGBTQ youth were nearly 2.5 times as likely as heterosexual youth to experience foster care placement, and were largely overrepresented in both child welfare services and unstable housing situations.
“Our findings suggest that LGBTQ youth living in foster care or unstable housing are similar in some ways; both groups showed disparities in victimization and mental health, whereas only unstably housed LGBTQ youth showed disparities in school functioning and substance use,” reads the report’s conclusion. “One might, therefore, conclude that LGBTQ youth in foster care are in some way protected from negative school functioning and substance use outcomes, at least during adolescence.”