LGBT+ teens in US, rejected by families, struggling in foster care - research

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - LGBT+ teens in the United States are three times more likely than heterosexual teens to live in foster care, often after being rejected by their families over their sexuality, according to research released on Monday.

Those teens are three times as likely to have considered suicide as well, said the University of Texas at Austin report published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

More than 400,000 children live in foster care in the United States, according to Children’s Rights, a group working with neglected and abused children.

Roughly a third of teens living in foster care are LGBT+, the research found. Overall, 11 percent of the U.S. population is LGBT+, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

A quarter of teens living in temporary situations such as shelters or motels said they were LGBT+, it found. The study surveyed about 600,000 students ages 10 to 18 in California.

Teens revealing their LGBT+ identities to family members can result in their being harassed, forced to leave home or becoming homeless, the report said.

“This lack of stability and support is tied to family rejection,” said Peter Karys of New York’s nonprofit Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

The LGBT+ students reported higher school absenteeism, getting in fights more often and suffering more mental health issues, it found.

“The current findings revealed that LGBTQ foster care youth in California are not faring as well as their non-LGBTQ or non–foster care counterparts,” the report said.

“It also suggests that the child welfare system is not prepared to provide safe and affirming care.”

The findings “point to the need for care that is affirming and respectful of youth’s sexual orientation and gender identity,” it said.

The report comes at a time when LGBT+ issues are playing a central role in U.S. politics.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a ban on transgender people in the military initiatied by the administration of President Donald Trump to go into effect.

More recently, the federal government said it would allow faith-based foster care agencies to turn down - based on religious beliefs - same-sex couples who want to foster children.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online February 11, 2019.