A new collection of working papers edited by scholars at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law identifies a lack of knowledge about LGBTQ youth of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and provides recommendations for future research to address the gaps.
Existing research finds that LGBTQ youth of color are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Structural racism and LGBTQ stigma likely increase the risk of that LGBTQ youth of color will enter these systems. Once in the system, LGBTQ youth of color tend to remain longer and face an elevated risk of discrimination and violence compared to other groups of youth.
Yet scholars conclude that more research is needed to fully understand the experiences and needs of LGBTQ youth of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and to prevent harm and promote positive outcomes for youth in the systems.
“We lack rigorous data on LGBTQ youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and other systems, which prevents us from monitoring the well-being of this vulnerable population over time,” said co-editor Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute.
In April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families announced that it will not implement an Obama-era rule that required child welfare departments to gather and report data related to the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of youth in the foster care system.
“The data collection requirement aimed to improve our understanding of the characteristics and experiences of youth coming in and out of the system,” said co-editor Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “With those data, we would be able to analyze whether there are gaps in care, whether there are certain groups experiencing disparities and whether the systems’ efforts to reduce disparities among at-risk youth are effective.”