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Children are being placed in foster care all over the world. The reasons can vary some kids are left to fend for themselves because their parents don’t want them or something tragic happens and there is no one left to care for the child or children. LGBT youth are extremely over-represented in the foster care world. The LGBT youth community comprises about 5 to 10 percent of the total foster youth population of approximately 408,425 in the United States. (Abbott, Shoe, Hiniker, Holger-Ambrose, Staudenmaie). When you look at those numbers you might think that this isn’t a lot but in reality, that’s just a rough estimate of the youth that have come out to their facilities or homes. There are factors for kids who identify as LGBT that can be the same as those who don’t identify; however, these kids can experience things in harsher ways than those who don’t identify as LGBT. They face additional challenges in learning to manage a stigmatized identity and to cope with social, educational, and community environments in which victimization and harassment are the norms according to Abbott, Shoe, Hiniker, Holger-Ambrose, and Staudenmaie. There are things we know about the LGBT community in foster care but more concrete research has to be done. Fields explains “We know, for example, that children who are LGBT are more likely to be placed in group settings and experience multiple placements. They are less likely to achieve permanence.” (Field, 2018) These kids need people to listen to them, help them and most of all accept them for who they are.

The people you think will be there to help are the same people that do the discriminate against LGBT kids. The discrimination these children face varies but it is seen mostly as being biased, judgmental, or unaccepting. Stigma and discrimination are the natural consequences of these people’s unaccepting attitudes and beliefs. (Salazar, McCowan, Cole, Skinner, Noell, Colito, Haggerty, & Barkan, 2018). The caregivers, foster families, jobs, social workers, and their own families can be the sources of unfair treatment. The same people that these kids depend on after they are taken out of their homes and placed into unknown territory. Some people can be considered Homophobic, which is defined as a fear or hatred of people who are attracted to, or intimate with, members of the same sex or there are often signs of Heterosexism at an institutional level; that is, in the form of laws or policies which provide rights or privileges to heterosexual, but not LGBT, individuals (Ross, Epstein, Goldfinger, Steele, Anderson, & Strike, 2008). The hardships that these kids endure are more than we know and then to come and be judged for the way you are adding on a whole new level of fear and pressure. When the child is in the care of the foster system it is the responsibility of the people around that person to support them, listen, and be understanding. Foster care is supposed to be a fresh start for these children with fair treatment, not exclusion because they are being themselves.

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Despite the social changes towards the LGBT community, many legal challenges still arise for sexual- and gender-minority parents, regarding adoption or in this case the lack of adoptions. Just as these kids are being discriminated against so are the LGBT adults that are trying to adopt them. This discrimination reduces the number of people who are willing to take LGBT kids because of the treatment by the system. Some countries or states go as far as to restrict the adoption of children by openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual people. (Ross, Epstein, Goldfinger, Steele, Anderson, & Strike, 2008). However, adoption is one of the only ways that LGBT couples can have children so not only are these people keeping kids from getting families, they are restricting people from becoming parents. LGBT partners are discriminated against based on who they love and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has done are trying to restrict LGBT families by not allowing them to have a joint- adoption. (Family Equality Council, 2017). Thus restricting their options and dreams of having a family. In the United States, same-sex couples are more likely than heterosexual couples to have adopted children; however, this isn’t allowed to happen because these parents are being discriminated against. (Farr, & Goldberg, 2018). Everyone has a right to fair and equal treatment no matter what and these biases are creating an environment unwelcoming to the LGBT community. This has to change for the system to change.

One of the biggest problems regarding LGBT foster kids is the fact that they aren’t being treated fairly in protective services. These children are being discriminated against for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The objective of foster care is defined by the Human Rights Campaign as “24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the [State] agency has placement and care responsibility.” This means that it is supposed to be a place for children to feel accepted, safe, and be treated fairly. Their caregivers are supposed to [make the effort to] learn more about the children and young people—including their intersecting racial and ethnic identities—which will help them to better meet their needs, address disproportionate entries, and improve what have often been dismal child outcomes according to the statement of Field. Workers should be able to give out cues as to their status on discussing issues of gender/sexual orientation; however, they can be seen looking for these cues in the child which can make for uncomfortable and tense situations. Every child is supposed to be given equal treatment but that just is not the case in this situation. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) quotes a statement by Barack Obama that reflects the way that a foster home is supposed to be. He says “All young people, regardless of what they look like, which religion they follow, who they love, or the gender they identify with, deserve the chance to dream and grow in a loving, permanent home.” This is the dream for all children that are taken from their homes and placed into the system unfortunately, it is still a dream for most LGBT children.

For years the LGBT community and people who support the community have been fighting for equal treatment and representation. In the foster care system, people are trying to stop the discrimination happening towards LGBT children. In one specific case, we have Jennifer Redmond who runs a group home in Laveen that houses only LGBT foster teens. Her motto is “working on understanding definitions, understanding what LGBT means so that our staff understands pronouns, things that kids would like to be called,” said Redmond. She is one person trying to make things better for the whole group one step at a time. She is leading a wave of change that needs more awareness and exposure. People need to understand what these children experience. They are just kids trying to find their way in the world one step at a time. They need the same support and guidance as any other child would.

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