Advocate News


08.04.2017

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Advocacy Tip: Working with LGBTQ Youth

Working with LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning) Youth

The first step and foundation to advocating for any child is to know who they are. While sexual orientation may not seem to be of great importance for one to advocate for, that assumption could not be farther from the truth. There is a stigma attached to those who identify as LGBTQ and there is often a belief that children in care who identify as LGBTQ are just confused, trying to get attention, or due to trauma. CASA advocates can do several things to assist them in better advocating for LGBTQ youth on their cases.

Be Aware of Biases

In order to understand their children identifying as LGBTQ, advocates must acknowledge their own biases. Some examples of common/frequent questions asked to all LGBTQ individuals include:

  • When did you first decide you were gay?
  • What do you think caused you to become a lesbian?
  • Is it possible that it’s just a phase and that you will grow out of it?

These questions, which may seem harmless, reinforce the view that heterosexuality is the norm, whereas, any other sexual orientation is abnormal. Although society has greatly grown in acceptance and begun changes to encompass all needs, policies in foster care take years to change.

Understanding the Stages of Coming Out

Coming out looks very different for all people. While there is not a specific order to coming out, having at least one constant person that acknowledges and accepts a LGBTQ person can ease the process. Below is a list of what the stages of coming out could look like for the children we serve based on the Cass Identity Model.

  • Identity Confusion
  • Identity Comparison
  • Identity Tolerance
  • Identity Acceptance
  • Identity Pride
  • Identity Synthesis

It is important for CASA advocates to remember that coming out is a life-long process. Additionally, this process can be hindered for foster youth due to frequent placement changes, unfamiliar environments and people, and lack of a strong support system. Knowing how the process of coming out generally progresses can help CASA advocates better understand their LGBTQ youth and meet them at their stage.

Supporting Your LGBTQ Youth

CASA advocates can be an important part of a LGTBQ youth’s support system. As such, advocates can help provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ youth by using the following techniques.

  • Use affirmative language: Just as you would affirm a child in their culture or hair style, choose affirming language for all of their identity. Use pronouns that they use to describe themselves or a significant other. 
  • Allow your youth to self-identify and believe them: Listening builds trust. If your youth identifies as LGBTQ, you should believe them. This is an opportunity for you the be the person that your CASA child is able to call, to be the listening ear, to voice concerns, and be able to take action via court report.
  • Be aware and intentional: Create an atmosphere of intentionality with your youth. Remember where they are right now and respect their feelings. Children do not want to feel different; they want to be believed in.

Questions:

  1. True or False. A LGBTQ youth’s process of coming out is not effected by entering the foster care system.
  2. Describe one way that a CASA advocate can support their LGBTQ youth.
  3. Explain why it is important for a CASA advocate to be aware of their own bias when working with LGBTQ youth.

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Leticia Hernandez at lhernandez@casa-satx.org.

Advocacy Tip: Working with LGBTQ Youth