What Does Back to School Mean for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care?

by HRC Staff

As the country prepares for the upcoming school year, some students, especially those that identify as LGBTQ or are part of LGBTQ families, have concerns for their safety and support.

Post submitted by Jean-Phillipe Regis, Manager, Children, Youth and Family Program

As the country prepares for the upcoming school year, some students, especially those that identify as LGBTQ or are part of LGBTQ families, have concerns for their safety and support.

For children and youth in foster care, this can be an especially challenging time. Over the course of a school year, they are often moved from one foster home to another. This sometimes means multiple school changes -- so on top of adjusting to a new home, they're also figuring out a new set of classes, different grading standards, and support systems. One study found that more than a third of youth who age out of foster care reported having five or more school changes, and less than 70 percent of youth in foster care finish high school before leaving care. Additionally, research shows that when youth exit care without a forever family, they are more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system, and experience housing and job instability.

Because LGBTQ young people are overrepresented in the foster care system, it is important that we consider how out-of-home care status intersects with the educational experiences of LGBTQ youth. We know that LGBTQ foster youth face higher rates of harassment in care and often have more placements than their non-LGBTQ peers. When it comes to school, a study in L.A. found that LGBTQ youth in care were more likely than their non-LGBTQ counterparts to be suspended or expelled– but positive, affirming school environments can truly be a lifeline for these young people.

HRC’s All Children - All Families project works to improve outcomes for LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care year round. In preparation for the school year, on Thursday, September 28, HRC will present, “School-Based Advocacy for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care,” from 12-1 p.m. EST. In this webinar, we will explore best practices to help ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have a welcoming and supportive school experience; and learn about school resources, behaviors and policies that can encourage the academic success of LGBTQ youth. Share this registration link and flyer with your networks today.

You can help LGBTQ students and students with LGBTQ families too! Check out HRC’s Welcoming Schools program’s LGBTQ-Inclusive School Checklist here, and share it with your local school. We also encourage you to use this resource to find out how you can get involved in building a more inclusive community.

All Children - All Families has guided agencies across the U.S. in improving practice with LGBTQ youth and parents for more than a decade. To learn more about the program's practice improvement model and see the full list of participating agencies, visit hrc.org/acaf.

Want to stay up-to-date on All Children - All Families resources and activities? Subscribe to “Field Forward,” the program’s monthly e-newsletter at hrc.im/field-forward.

Housed by the HRC Foundation, Welcoming Schools and Time to THRIVE are national programs to help LGBTQ youth succeed. Welcoming Schools provides professional development to educators and free resources to educators and families to support a respectful elementary school climate for all students.  Time to THRIVE is an annual national conference that brings together K-12 educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency to better support LGBTQ youth.

LGBTQ+ Youth