3 key approaches to an LGBTQ+ inclusive child welfare breakthrough

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Did you know LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to become depressed, suicidal, or homeless? Traumatic child welfare and family experiences are a factor in this. It doesn’t have to be this way. Researchers Fisher and Sharma give hope and direction for LGBTQ+ youth care.

What is this research about?

Growing up, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and people with other gender and sexual minority identities (LGBTQ+) are more likely to face negative treatment. Many LGBTQ+ youth need child welfare services.

Under the child welfare system, they may experience barriers to appropriate care. Staff in care homes sometimes lack sexual orientation understanding. Even worse, they may refuse to acknowledge or talk with youth about their needs. This leaves some LGBTQ+ youth feeling devalued and unsafe.

This project informs the Province of British Columbia’s (BC) Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) on how to 1) increase gender inclusivity, 2) support LGBTQ+ youth, and 3) aid decision-making benefiting LGBTQ+ youth.

LGBTQ+ youths' basic human needs for safety, fair treatment, and support often go unmet in child welfare. This research identifies three key child welfare improvements LGBTQ+ youth need: supportive policy, staff training, and community support.
Researchers at the University of Victoria (UVic) examined LGBTQ+ child welfare best practices to make recommendations for improving current approaches in BC. The researchers focused on how organizations foster support for LBQTQ+ youth and how social workers make informed decisions on these young people's needs.

This research revealed promising examples of improving support for LGBTQ+ youth in child welfare. Findings suggest LGBTQ+ child welfare needs improvement in three key areas: policy, staff training, and community support. Additionally, researchers discussed techniques for making informed-decisions on LGBTQ+ youth about transitioning and placements. Policy and practical recommendations for improving inclusivity, fostering supportive environments, and making informed-decisions are included in the full report.

For a copy of the full report please contact 

This research is very important for organizations developing child welfare policy and procedures. It also provides helpful information for LGBTQ+ youth advocates and caregivers who can use the findings to foster inclusivity.

The intent of the research was to give the BC MCFD relevant information to support LGBTQ+ youth in their care. The findings present key areas to focus on for improving ministry policy and practice. The suggested improvements foster supportive, gender inclusive environments and better decision-making by social workers for LGBTQ+ youth.

Alexandra N. Fisher and Priyanka V. Sharma are graduate students in UVic’s Graduate Studies 505 multi-disciplinary research internship course.

Facilitated by Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization, This project is a partnership between BC MCFD and UVic. Drs. Gord Miller and Wayne Mitic, professors at UVic, supervised the research.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Fisher, A.N. and Sharma, P.V. (2017). Improving Policy and Practice for LGBTQ+ Children and Youth in Child Welfare Settings. Victoria, BC: University Of Victoria.
Child welfare, youth care, foster care, LGBTQ+, children and family development, child services, inclusivity, gender, social work, sexual orientation, gender identity

Download the research PDF