Each year, National Foster Care Month helps to bring awareness to the experiences of foster youth across the country. We continually learn and witness the effect of foster care on youth and gain deeper understanding on the experiences of foster youth who hold marginalized identities. This year, we want to start a discussion about the dire need of supportive Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian LGBTQ+ caregivers for foster youth in this country.
When thinking of the needs of foster youth, it’s important to recognize the necessity of supportive caregivers in the well-being of youth, especially for LGBTQ+ youth of color. Navigating racism, homophobia, and transphobia causes additional trauma and stress to foster youth.
We spoke to a former foster youth on their experience of being Black, LGBTQ+, and in care.
“I felt like I was lucky to have LGBTQ+ foster parents, and I thought I was going to get the community I needed,” said the former foster youth. “I came to realize they were not the safe space I thought they could be. Throughout my stay with them, they would make negative comments on people who were transgender or non-binary. I felt that I had to continue hiding a part of myself, such as my gender identity, because I didn’t feel like they would react positively. Additionally, I didn’t feel safe as a Black person to discuss the racism I was experiencing while in foster care and in my social life. Because they didn’t make me feel comfortable sharing my identities, I felt like I could not trust or depend on them.”
For many other LGBTQ+ foster youth of color, this is also their reality. LGBTQ+ youth of color are overrepresented in foster care, face higher rates of abuse and maltreatment from caregivers due to racism, homophobia and transphobia. According to a 2020 data report from Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, about 20% of youth in foster care are Black while 21% are Hispanic or Latino. In 2021, a report from the Trevor Project stated that there were 4.1% of LGBTQ+ youth who’ve been in foster care, in comparison to 2.6% of non-LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, they found that Native and Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth had the highest likelihood of experiencing foster care, along with multiracial, Black, Latinx and Asian LGBTQ+ youth in comparison to white LGBTQ+ youth.
During an HRC panel, an Indigenous young person shared: “Do we ever actually have a conversation with someone...that understands our identity, that understands our culture, that understands those rituals and the respect that goes along with those practices?”
It is clear that there is a high need for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian LGBTQ+ caregivers involved in child welfare. Youth need to feel comfortable in their homes and to feel supported by caregivers while navigating the child welfare system. With high rates of depression and anxiety amongst foster youth, child welfare professionals should consider recruiting more caregivers of color who are also LGBTQ+.