Have you wondered if you could be the right place for an LGBTQ+ youth or child to land? Join us to talk about how to be an affirming and supportive home for LGBTQ+ youth. Or guest will be Angela Weeks, the Director of the National SOGIE Center at the Institute for Innovation and Implementation. Under the Center, she directs the Center of Excellence for LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity and the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for LGBTQ2S Children and Youth in Foster Care.
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Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about adopting and fostering a child who identifies as LGBTQ. We'll be talking today with Angela Weeks. She is the Director of the National SOGIE center at the Institute for Innovation and Implementation. Under the center, she directs the Center for Excellence for LGBTQ plus behavioral health equity, and the National Quality Improvement Center on tailored services, placement, stability, and permanency for LGBTQ to s children and youth in foster care. Welcome, Angela, to Creating a Family. Thanks for having me. And I want to remind everybody to listen to the end because we will be giving some practical tips when parenting a child who identifies as LGBTQ plus, I should pause here for a minute to say, we'll be discussing the important role as foster and resource parents have in providing a safe and supportive and affirming home for LGBTQ plus youth in foster care, as well as those children who enter adoption. We're going to be discussing the unique issues that these youth and children face and the important roles that foster parents play. We do so with we're using the term and the acronym LGBTQ plus in this discussion. But I want it to be known that we do so in the most inclusive sense of the word possible to include people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, which goes by so Gee, am I pronouncing that correctly? Yeah, that's right. Okay. And we include the plus sign, even though we're not going to be using Soji exclusively, we will be using LGBTQ plus, but we include the plus side to acknowledge the diversity that exists and to recognize who don't feel specifically included in LGBTQ. All right, so I also wanted to start with just some facts, because I think this is so important. Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning Native American, Alaskan to spirits or any other diverse identity, which again, we're calling LGBTQ plus are overrepresented in foster care, while approximately 5% of the general population is estimated to be LGBTQ plus, studies estimate that about 30% of youth in foster care identify as such. So Angela, why are these young people over represented in child welfare?
That's a really good question. And I think there's some some strong theories about why we don't have the exact information. You know, we can't say exclusively, there's a reason, because child welfare systems currently don't collect information about a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. If they did, ask people how they identified, we would be able to look at the data of child welfare more comprehensively, and say, Oh, this is, you know, the experiences this is you know, why LGBTQ young people are entering care. But with that being said, there's some strong theories. So one theory is that LGBTQ young people wind up in foster care because of rejection from their family or family doesn't support sexual orientation or gender identity. And that can sort of manifest in different ways. So a young person might run away from home, because they're not being accepted, or they're anticipating a bad reaction from their family, they may also suffer abusive behaviors or neglect as a result of their LGBTQ identity and wind up in the child welfare system because of that. And then some, some young people, when you look at why their you know, their family may have reached out to the child welfare system for help. A lot of it is sort of coded under family conflict. And so it's not very specific, but it could be that a young person's gender expression or sexual orientation or gender may have, you know, the family may have had challenges with it and reached out to the child welfare system asking for help, and got involved in that way. And the last thing I'll just say is that, you know, another really strong theory that there's some data around is that LGBTQ young people enter foster care for the same reasons that straight and cisgender young people enter care, and that the reason they're over represented is actually because they linger and care for longer so they're less likely to reunify with their families, or they move around more frequently because of a lack of acceptance and support in foster homes and so they wind up experiencing Many foster families, and that causes a lot of instability in their lives. And so they just wind up for many reasons staying in care longer.
Yeah. And the data would indicate that they move one and a half to two times more likely that well, let's put it this way, they're more likely one and a half to two times more likely to have a foster placement failure. Yeah. And what's the theory as I mean, I'm assuming it's the same theories. But why are these kids less likely to find a more stable placement in foster care.
And it's similar to their perhaps entry into care. And that's either they're anticipating rejection from the foster family, maybe there have been things that were said in the home that sort of gave them the impression they wouldn't be accepted. And so they wind up running away from that placement that we hear a lot of young people talking about leaving a placement on their own, because they either weren't being supported, or they were afraid they weren't going to be supported. And then also, we hear plenty of stories of foster families asking for young people to be removed because of behavior issues, but that really are stemming from the young person coming out as LGBTQ.
And a discomfort with our dismay, misunderstanding of and therefore not willing to be able to support these young people, right. So what does the research indicate about how sexual orientation and gender identity are formed?
So I think the research is quite limited from a perspective of sort of, what are the genetic and biological factors that make up sexual orientation and gender identity, I think there's certainly a lot of research happening, nothing super conclusive. And that goes for what forms a straight sexual orientation, or what makes people cisgender. It's, you know, just very, there's very limited understanding of what that entails. But we know that for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, they could identify straight lesbian, gay, bisexual pansexual, their sexual orientation develops in early childhood around the ages of, you know, it's a broad range, it's like sort of could be as early as six, it could be later around the age of 12, or 13. But generally, what I tell people is that it's when you're developing your first crush is when your sexual orientation is sort of emerging. And so if you think back to your own first crush, you know, you might be able to remember the age you are some people say six or seven. But what's really profound is that it was such a milestone for many people that they can remember who their first crush was, and sometimes even like, the first and last name. And so that's sort of the as early as sexual orientation starts to emerge. Now young people might not be able to say, what their sexual orientation is until much later because they don't have the language for it. But that's a good general rule. And then gender identity, it forms in toddlerhood, usually, you know, it could form as early as a young person has the language for it. So if you have any toddlers in your life, or have been around toddlers at all, pretty much at the point that they start saying like I'm a boy, or I'm a girl, it's them starting to establish how they feel about their gender. And that's really because they've observed gender, a little bit in the world around them. And they start to understand like how they relate to the gender rules and roles of the people in their lives. And then they they start to identify that way. So we say, as early as two could be, you know, three, four, that they, you know, perhaps are starting to say more firmly how they feel, but certainly some very early documentation around gender identity.
So our LGBTQ plus youth more likely to have a mental health diagnosis, or behavioral issues either. No.
So a lot of people think that LGBTQ people in general and young people because there are more rates of depression, more likelihood of anxiety, that this population experiences those things, because they're LGBTQ, but actually, LGBTQ people have higher rates of depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts and all of that because of the rejection, and discrimination and harassment they experience in society. And so there have been studies that have looked at LGBTQ people that are really in very affirming environments and others that are in less affirming environments. And the studies indicate that those that are surrounded with support and affirmation don't suffer nearly the rate of mental health diagnosis as the populations that are subjected to discrimination. So really comes down to that like how supportive is someone how affirmed is Someone, and this goes for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, if you're living in a community where you're not fully accepted, and where you're discriminated against, and where you're afraid of losing your family or your vital resources, or you're going to school and getting bullied for any reason, like you're gonna have higher rates of mental Sure.
I mean, that just makes common sense. We know that. Yeah. That unhealthy environments, environments that are not supportive, are going to produce children or youth are people with greater mental health struggles? It's that is common sense. Did you know that we have a free monthly newsletter, if not, you should know about it, it is a great resource. And we would love to have you subscribe, you can subscribe at Bitly slash trans racial guide. And the reason that the that is the URL is that when you subscribe, you will get a free downloadable guide called strengthening and supporting your transracial adoptee. That's our little thank you gift for subscribing. It contains practical tips that will serve your transracial adoptee or your foster or kinship family as well. So again, to subscribe to our newsletter and receive the free transracial adoption guide. You go to Bitly bi T dot L y slash trans racial die. Another myth that I think we need to address is that LGBTQ plus youth are not more likely than heterosexual or cisgender young people to sexually abuse or otherwise pose a threat to others, including other children. Is that still a prevalent myth? Do you think?
Yeah, I still think that some foster family is for resource families are very concerned about the impact of having an LGBTQ young person in their home, like what impact will there be on other young people in the home. And that's sort of rooted in this idea. It's it's rooted in two ideas. One is that LGBTQ young people are more likely to sexually abuse others. And that is a very harmful stereotype that has been weaponized against the LGBTQ community for decades. There's no data suggesting that that's the case. In fact, most data on sexual abuse shows that it is perpetrated by people who identify as straight men. So there's no data to suggest it. A lot of people I think, have gotten LGBTQ identity or sort of the, or at least like the lesbian, gay, bisexual, sexual orientations, confused with predatory sexual behavior. And those are two very different things and have nothing to do with one another. So that's just been a harmful stereotype. Again, that's been used against the community. The second concern is about LGBTQ young people, encouraging other young people in the home to be LGBTQ. And we know that that's not the case. Either that sexual orientation is not contagious. You are, you know, you identify how you identify. And your attraction is formed very early in childhood, as we just talked about. And so really, the best thing that everyone needs is just sort of a safe place to be and safe adults in their lives to support and love them. And that is true for all young people. And so those types of harmful stereotypes and thoughts are actually really damaging to LGBTQ young people.
They are and I think that even if they're not, even if they're subconscious, I think they exist. And I think that, then it helps to discuss the myths because at least it brings them out into the into the open, what are some other myths that I might have missed about LGBTQ plus youth?
I've done quite a bit of work with foster families and trainings for families that are being certified. And I think I hear a lot of, you know, I've heard a lot of questions about families not really wanting to encourage young people to be LGBTQ or they're afraid that they may influence them in certain ways, a lot of questions around why someone is LGBTQ and cannot be changed. And I think the bottom line is that from all of the research that we have on LGBTQ identities, we know that trying to change or influence someone's sexual orientation or gender identity is extremely harmful, and could lead to a heightened risk of suicide attempts and major mental health diagnoses. So we usually just tell the folks that we work Real quick, the best thing you can do as a, again, as a supportive adult and this young person's life is to just to care for them, and to let them be who they are. So it doesn't really matter why a sexual orientation is the way it is or why some, a young person wants to dress a certain way. What matters is that they're, they're telling you who they are, and that they trust you with that information. And they're looking to you for support and safety in that. And so that's a really powerful position to be in as a resource, family and foster parent to be in this position where you can actually create that safety for them, you can create at least an affirming space for them. And so through all the myths and questions, we hear that sort of we try to land in that in that place,
and to recognize that if a child discloses this to you, that there that took a lot of guts in it took trust in you, and to to honor that trust and to treat it with the respect that it is due because they have expected that guarantee they have experienced rejection because of their orientation or identity. So absolutely, absolutely. So what are some of the issues that these kids face in addition to the issues, of course of neglect and abuse that brought them into care and into the first place? In other words, are there some unique issues that are common to LGBTQ plus youth? who are in foster care?
Yeah, I think that one, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of trouble for agencies are not asking young people what their sexual orientation or gender identity is. And so as you can imagine, coming out or disclosing that information, it takes time, it takes trust. But if you're in a system where you're rapidly moving from place to place, or person to person, you have a complete turnover of your child welfare team, there's not a lot of time to build that rapport and that trust to disclose that information in ways that feel safe. And so a young person can go their entire time in a foster care system without telling anyone of their sexual orientation and gender identity. And what happens is, you know, that young person is not getting connected to services that align with their identity, they could be going to a mental health provider who's not LGBTQ affirming, it's just deepening and worsening the impact of bias on themselves. And, you know, there's things like LGBTQ support groups, there's certainly different methods for things like safe sex education, that would be accessible to someone if they could disclose their LGBTQ identity. And so there's a lot of missed opportunity for services and resources when we don't know how the young person identifies. And then because young people aren't in, you know, aren't care, anticipating rejection, like I said, you know, they could be running away from foster homes and their behaviors at this time could even be coming more problematic as they're wrestling with how to, to navigate the world by themselves, right, I hear from a lot of LGBTQ older youth and care, that they are preparing themselves for independence, which is really difficult. You know, I think even as an older young person who's getting ready to age out of care, the idea that you don't really have adults to lean on is very scary. So I think that takes also a mental, you know, a toll on someone's mental health. And then they do offer a lot of discrimination or harassment care, particularly if they're in residential or congregate care living with others. Sometimes trans youth, for example, are not placed in a facility that aligns with their gender identity. And so they may identify as a trans girl, and they're placed in an all boys congregate care facility. It's extremely harmful. And they're so you know, they could be subject to some pretty severe harassment and even a danger. And so I think placements are another huge
challenge. Yeah, I would assume so. And I would think that that, particularly with transgender youth, that would be I would think most of the time they're being placed with their the gender of their identified at birth. I would think most of the time, that's where they're being placed. Are there others that are allowing them to be placed with their gender identity?
Yeah, I would say there's a good number of states actually, that have passed affirming and appropriate placement policies, and some states have gone as far as legislation that actually say that young people should be placed according to their gender identity, which is a huge step forward, but implement. Yeah, but like implementing that takes a little bit time or it has taken a little bit more time in some areas. And so you still see, will you still see states and jurisdictions that don't support place meant by gender identity. But even in the states that have policies or legislation that does you still see agencies really struggling with how to do that? How do you do that safely. And that really, you know, comes down to training the workforce and making sure that you have the right policies in place.
I would imagine that if you have created an affirming home, and you have had a child or youth placed with you, and they feel comfortable, one of the things that it seems to me that as a parent that we have, the obligation or the responsibility is to help help this youth evaluate how to know when and where to disclose their LGBTQ plus identity, and when to do it, and to whom who is safe, and how do they evaluate? What are the things that parents should think about? I mean, if you have the honor, if a child has trusted you with this, you have the honor of but also the responsibility and it seems like a heavy responsibility, because often you haven't walked this walk yourself. So you may not know and you don't want to advise them incorrectly, because there is a safety issue that they need to be aware of.
Yeah, I think that there, like you said, there is a great opportunity to be a support in a young person's life in this way. There was a recent study from the Trevor Project, which is a crisis and suicide prevention line that's dedicated to serving LGBTQ young people. They do studies often and they did a study that found that on even having just one accepting adult, in an LGBTQ person's life, LGBTQ young person's life, reduced the likelihood of a suicide attempt by 40%. Wow. And that is like a massive statistic. So I think that for sure, if you are that person, and you have created a space that's safe, one of the things that you can do is help young people think through how to manage their own safety and disclosures and other spaces. And I just I suggest having conversations about their sexual orientation and gender identity, if they're open to it is a great start. And asking questions like What is it like for you at school? Do you have people at school that are supportive to people at school that are giving you a hard time? What does that look like? How, like, what do you do in those situations where someone says something that isn't accurate? Or is discriminatory? You know, when you go to get a job, have you thought about how you'll talk to your co workers about how you identify, especially if it's like a trans young person, you know, asking questions like, Have you thought about how you'll ask your co workers to use the correct pronouns, when they're referring to you? What are you going to do if they if they don't do that? You know, I think just helping them think through what are the challenges ahead because there's, there's going to be some challenges, but equipping them with the skills to think through them to come up with a plan, you know, if they want to come out of school, for example, to say, Okay, let's like talk about what you think that might look like. And if you think, you know, there's someone at school that isn't going to react well, like, what are you going to do to protect yourself? Where will you go if you're feeling uncomfortable, and I think that helps LGBTQ young people build the skill for later in life, because LGBTQ people in generally, our con bill will always be coming out somewhere, you get a new job, you move to a new place you meet a new group of people coming out is a lifelong experience. And so the more that you think through it, and you learn those skills to assess the situation, the better prepared you are for that lifelong task.
We want to thank the jockey Bing Family Foundation for allowing us to provide you with 12 free online parenting courses. You can find them at Bitly slash JBf support, that's the I T dot L y slash all one word JBf support. We've got a lot of topics, you can access a certificate of completion if you need it. So check it out today. So how would where would you suggest that foster or adoptive or any parents or that matter, go to learn more about how to be supportive and how to help kids navigate all those questions? You just talked about people who have walked this walk and and can give you can share what they have what they've learned as opposed to because if you're wanting to help them, if you wanted to help kids that and you actually have the lived experience? Yeah, I would
say we're national. So G center, people can Google national Surgery Center. We have a clearing house of resources and it's for people who are Working in child welfare systems as well, as you know, parents and foster families can also go there to access information. But we have a wealth of free trainings, free resources, we have animation videos that can walk people through some of the more complicated topics around LGBTQ identity, like terminology, for example, or family acceptance. And so we're definitely encourage folks to check that out, because we have a whole database of of research and helpful tools.
And we will link we will link to that in the show notes, by the way.
Oh, great, thank you. And then I would also suggest the Family Acceptance Project, that is a project that has been developing resources, with families and for families for decades. And they have family education booklets and several languages, they have posters with really great information on what is affirming behavior versus what are some of the things you might be doing that are not supportive. And that's been translated in dozens and dozens of languages. And so the resources on that site are culturally specific, and also language specific. And they have a host of also like faith based resources. So really encourage families to check out that resource as well.
And we will link to that as well. In the in the show notes. Excellent. And what about the a lot of places have PFLAG chapters, and you could look that up as well, oftentimes, they will actually have in person meetings, although I suspect everybody's gone to online now. But another place that you can find it, particularly if you're looking for something local.
Yeah. And I'm glad you mentioned PFLAG. Yeah, they're great. And they have support groups that are facilitated by families that have gone through a journey as well, in learning about their young person's LGBTQ identity. And so it's really a great resource for families who are wanting to learn how to support even for family members. If you're, if you're listening to this, and you're struggling with it, and you're not sure how you feel about it. You know, and you really want a space that's non judgmental, just sort of get your feelings out there. PFLAG straight?
Yeah, that's a good point. Because a lot of times you're having these feelings, it's apparent, but you're embarrassed because you know, you're not supposed to. And having a non judgmental place is a is a great is wonderful for across the board. I what I hear often this I suspect, we hear this more often with younger children, not so much with adolescents. But parents are adoptive parents or foster parents believing that with younger kids that this is just a phase. And that and kids are anyway that this is a phase and that and the truth is there is a fair amount of gender fluidity through childhood. So that's a possibility it is but but how do we assess the so how to parents know how to handle it? Is this a phase? How do we know if it's a phase? And then does it matter how we behave?
Yeah, I your point about gender fluidity is a good one, you know, people, we spend a lot of time in our early life figuring out who we are. And that is part of healthy development. And so young person may go through different developmental phases where maybe they have a different style, maybe they want to be a little bit more feminine sometimes, and then maybe more masculine. And I think that the key always is just to support them where they're at, you know, even if it turns out to change down the line, the most important thing is that you never wavered in your support. And so, at the end of the day, I don't think it it matters if it is a phase or not. And I don't think families need to worry about how to figure out whether it's a face or not. Because if you support them, wherever they are, in that moment, you're going to you know, that's a win, because what they're learning is that you have their back, and there's nothing that's gonna, you know, there's nothing that's going to shake you and yeah, their identity or orientation, winds up being something different than than what they thought that's part of healthy discovery about yourself. And it's totally, you know, it's totally fine.
And it's going to shake itself out as time goes on one way or the other. And if you're there, you will be there to support them regardless. All right, so now I want to talk about some specific type tips, shall we say, on how to create for foster and adoptive families? How do we create welcoming and affirming homes to young people and children who identify as LGBTQ plus, and one of the things that that comes up is, I often thinks that that that the kid that the young person that the youth has not identified but yet it's there's a temptation to make assumptions based on mannerisms or speech or likes, our, our dislikes, or how much they confirm to our gender stereotypes. So it seems like hat that that one of the first things is just to try to avoid making these assumptions, or are they usually correct? I maybe I should pause and say, Is it harmful to make assumptions?
Yeah, I think it can be harmful, you know, think about if you're an LGBTQ young person, and there has been conflict in your family. And now you're in a totally new place with new people, and you're very scared. And you walk into a home with a new foster family, and you're looking around the environment, and you're trying to figure out is this a safe place or not. And then you start to hear comments that make assumptions about your identity, someone asks you, if you have a boyfriend, someone asks, Do whatever number of things this is assuming, right? If there are no symbols of like LGBTQ affirmation in the room, it's easy to just assume that you would be rejected from that, from that family. If you're hearing more assumptions of heteronormativity. Or that you're cisgender, it becomes a lot more scary to come out and to tell someone who you are, right. And so for that reason, assumptions can be dangerous, because they do send a message that there is a certain way to be. And, you know, on the flip side of that, I think symbols can be extremely powerful if you have a rainbow candle in your house or trans flag somewhere hanging up. Or even if you are watching, you know, ru, Paul's drag race or something, you know, the things that you do, the things that are in your house, the things that you watch the things that you read, it does have an impact. And if you fill your space with affirming symbols for LGBTQ people, young people will feel much more comfortable to tell you who they are, because they're just looking for clues, right? They're trying to figure it out. And I can tell you, this has happened so often that we have foster families who say they don't have any LGBTQ young people that they care for. And then they come to one of our of the trainings, and they'll take home the materials with them, they'll have a sticker from the training or a handout from the training. And somebody, some young person in the homeless say, what's that? And we'll come out to them just because they saw something that meant that foster family had gone through a little bit of training.
Yeah. And that they cared and the third least brought it home is a symbol of safety. Yeah. So would you suggest that parents, foster parents, let's say in this case, ask all the young people regardless how they identify and what their pronouns are?
I think that, you know, the simplest and probably safest thing to do is to introduce your own pronouns, as a foster parent, when you're first meeting a young person, you know, I would say, Hi, I'm Angela, and I use she and her pronouns. You know, what do you like to go by? Do you have a name? That's different than the one that's, you know, the one that I was told? Or do you have a nickname, and I'm just opening the door for that conversation, just the fact that you introduced your own pronouns, and that introduction, is going to signal to that young person, that you're open to it, that you're open to having a conversation. And then I would say keep things gender neutral. And that's going back to not making assumptions. So if you're asking about relationships as the young person, you know, are you dating anyone?
As opposed to?
Yeah, do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend? Yeah,
yes. So keeping things as, as gender neutral until you have a job the child has, or the young person has indicated to you. This one should go without saying, but another tip is to have a zero tolerance policy for all the people in your home and extended family, for slurs or jokes about gender or sexuality. I would like to say that that would go without saying, but I'm not sure it does.
Yeah, no, I don't think so. And it is very sometimes anti LGBTQ bias, or really, any bias could be really nuanced and sneaky, and you might not catch it all. So you have to really be thoughtful, right? And, and, you know, pay attention to the little stuff, too. You know, if you hear someone saying something that's not appropriate, or doing something that's not appropriate, you need to intervene. And you need to question their behavior and ask why are they doing it? Especially if it's another young person you don't know where they've heard, the things that they've heard or why they think the things they think it's important to intervene so the harmful behavior stops, but also to ask questions like, Where did you first hear that? Or why do you think that and in that way, you also provide an opportunity for education, and correcting this information, I think that's really
important. I think something this is often coming from a good place. But I think parents, when they have a young person that is stereotypically doing things that they feel like we'd put this child up for, for being teased or being bullied, there's a temptation to want to steer them towards things that seem more appropriate, that, you know, try out for a sport, or, you know, don't go don't don't be a dancer, you know, do it go go into try soccer are whatever the stereotypes and they're doing it because they feel like, this kid is sticking out like a sore thumb, they're going to be they're going to be crucified at school, they're going to just be teased, therefore, let's say you don't, okay, let's not wear the purple pants, let's just get you a pair of khakis. And maybe you could, you know, have purple underwear or something, you know, and you know, so that nobody sees it. So I understand where people are coming from, what are your thoughts on them?
So think that a couple of things. So parents and foster families, these, the fears come from place, right, they come from a place of seeing LGBTQ people be mistreated, so that that's real fear, you know, and I think it's okay to, to name it. And to say, you know, the reason I'm asking you not to go out and a miniskirt is because I don't want you to get hurt. Is there another skirt, or another type of clothing that you could wear that would affirm you, but also just keep you a little bit safer? You know, having a conversation with the young person, letting them know why you're asking the things you're asking, or why you're feeling things you're feeling is sometimes sometimes helpful, because you don't want them to walk away from a situation thinking that you're just rejecting them, you just don't support them, you don't think that their sexual orientation or gender identity is valid. So in some cases, you know, it has to be age appropriate, whatever you're, you know, talking to your young person about, but if they are at a place where they can have those conversations, that's important. And it's also important to ask those questions, that safety planning conversation that we just, you know, we were just talking about? What would happen? Like, okay, like, I totally support you going to school in a skirt? Like how do you think folks will react? Do you think some people are going to be excited to see your skirt? Do you think some people might not be excited, get a sense from the young person about their support at school? And then ask, well, if, if so. And so if you think so and so my bully you, what will you do? You know, where will you go for help, and making sure that they have their own safety plans during these situations, because, again, they're gonna have to navigate them outside the home, they're gonna have to navigate them for years to come, right. And so building those skills to help them make those decisions are really important. And in some cases, you can find a middle ground like, like you said, some young people will be like, Okay, fine, I want my toenails painted. But you know, I'll put them in my shoes, when I go to the wherever.
Or I'll put the miniskirt in my backpack. And I know it's there. And I won't wear it. But but as soon as I get off the bus, and I get home, I'm going to change into it and you know, that type of thing. Or they may say I want to wear the miniskirt to school, and what you've done is help them think through, you know, what are going to be the consequences? And what are your plans for how you're going to handle it?
Exactly. And, and you know, too, you can get other people's support as well. So, if the young person really wants to wear the skirt school, then you know, I suggest having a conversation with someone at the school. And you know, you could let the young person know like, Hey, who's who's the supportive person who's your favorite teacher, you know, do who's the guidance counselor, have a conversation with them to say like, Hey, we talked about this. And they said that if they aren't getting harassed or bullied, they're going to come tell you that's the plan, or whatever, you know, or make sure that the school has some sort of policy in place to handle bullying, if it's occurring, right, making sure that the other adults in the young person's life, have some awareness and are able to support Okay,
another thing just I think this is good in general, regardless of whether we are parenting, LGBTQ plus youth, but celebrating diversity in all forms. What are some suggestions for books, movies, materials, with positive representation of same gender relationships, transgender people, things like that. Thoughts on where parents can find this type of material to make sure that they have that they're, it's represented in their home?
That is a good question. I don't watch a lot of TV these days, but I do so I don't have any recommendations but I'm, I'm grateful there's more representation and I honestly I think, you know, if you're, if you're watching tea, TV shows that have LGBTQ characters in them just to make sure that they are positively represented. And there they have, you know, the positive character story, they're not there as a as a token or a stereotype. And that you to like, as someone watching it, comment positively on those relationships and those people, I think that's important. You know, a lot of families don't think about the news as something that can be pretty damaging. But right now, across the country, there's a lot of anti LGBTQ debates that are happening. And if you have the news playing, and those things are on the TV, just being mindful of that, too, and how that could impact young people. And also how you and your family members react to media events. You know, a lot of times someone might say, I don't like so and so because they're, you know, they're they shove their lifestyle in people's faces, well, that negative comment is going to have an impact on the person that's overhearing that conversation. So I think just being mindful of that, and then, if you have any books in your home, I think just making sure that there's an equal representation of race, sexual orientation, gender, identity, disabilities, you know, I think that's always good to have a little bit of everything in your home, because you never know what young person you might be taking care of. found through, hmm.
I want to welcome a new partner to our free creating a family family. And they're supporting our organization and this podcast that is fostering families Today magazine. They help kinship adoptive and resource parents provide the best possible care for children in their homes. It is both a print and a digital magazine, and has been educating and informing caregivers for over 20 years. So check them out, sign up for a one year subscription today and save 10% You just go to fostering families today.com and enter family 10 at checkout. So that's fostering families today.com And the code is family. Tim. Another tip that we suggest, and this is sometimes, honestly, I, I think that parents do this more subconsciously. But it's a double standard. Whereas they become uncomfortable when LGBTQ plus youth will talk about their feelings of attraction, or talk about having kissed their crush or whatever, that it makes the parents uncomfortable, even if they acknowledge that this is this child's identity, this is we want to support them. So to think in terms of if this was a cisgender child, it's saying that they were going on a date and they were really excited, and they hope they got a kiss and all that type of stuff. It's an age appropriate here. Now, I'm not suggesting that we I think all young people need to be protected from overly sexualized behavior, regardless of that, if it's age appropriate to be accepting, regardless that if we are to be an affirming home, that means we're affirming the fact that they are who they are, and we're accepting it. I do think that do you see that parents struggle with that sometimes?
Yeah. And I think that it's an interesting conversation, you know, I hear a lot. First, I hear the comment a lot that young people, they're too young to know whether they're LGBTQ, it's not a conversation we need to have because they're too young. And I just like to challenge people around that because we have in our culture that US American culture, gender reveal parties for people who are not born yet. And we talk about little, two year olds and three year olds having two and three year old boyfriends like, Oh, they're looking at them flirting and like they have a little boyfriend or they have a little girlfriend. And so actually, we're quite comfortable with having some of these conversations, even for people that are so young that it wouldn't be relevant. So the
record, I find it obnoxious when people say that two year olds got a girlfriend or a boyfriend, I think, please, but anyway, that's just
no, I agree. But I also think that it's very apt that is a sort of normalized thing. But if I were to do that to someone and implied a lesbian sexual orientation, or there would be uproar, right. And so I like to just sort of point that out, because there's definitely a double standard. And then to also acknowledge that however you would treat a straight or cisgender you young person is exactly how you should be treating an LGBTQ young person. So if they're going out on a date, and they're older, young people, if you would have provided them information on safe sex practices, if they were straight, you need to do the same thing. If they are LGBT, right? You need to say like, Hey, have you know about this? Have you been taught this? Do you need some resources? And also, talking about sexual orientation is not the same as talking about sexual behavior. So someone, a young person in your care might want to talk about their sexual orientation, they might want to talk about a crush they have on a girl at school, it doesn't automatically mean that a sex conversation is what they're trying to have, right? Like, they could genuinely just be like, I have a crush on a girl at school and want to take them to the prom or a dance or something. And so we don't need to, you know, as you said, everything needs to be age appropriate, and also context appropriate. And so I think what actually makes people uncomfortable about the conversation is the fact that they always are thinking about oh, sex, but people are also allowed to just have relationships with other people. And we should be talking about that, too. And we should be teaching young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities what a healthy relationship looks like, even outside of the act of sex.
That is such a good point. And that I do think that yeah, that is such a good point that we tend to immediately think of sex when we talk about this, but we don't for our cisgender children, we don't we, you know, it's okay to for them to have little crushes. And and we don't immediately move to a bigger thought and a bigger conversation. Yeah, right. Right. Keeping but but acknowledging that you and I are both acknowledging that there are age and context. We want this to be age appropriate and content and contextually appropriate, obviously. Yeah. All right. Excellent. So something you mentioned that I if you are a family that wants to be affirming and supportive, having some form of a symbol in your home, you had mentioned that? Can you give some ideas of what that would be? Because regardless of what you think, young people coming in, are looking for it? So what are some symbols that you that are common that people can think of?
Yeah, I think definitely, you know, the rainbow flag has sort of been synonymous with the LGBTQ pride movement. There are also flags for almost every sexual orientation and gender identity. You can you know, and see, if you have a young person in your home who comes out as bisexual, you know, look at the bisexual pride flag, you know, but you could put pride flags up, I think, again, books are really great because they sit on a shelf, and they're easy to see. And they're always there. So if you get some LGBTQ affirming books, books about LGBTQ characters, I always think that's great. keychains, you know, if you are likely, you know, you're going to be in the car, probably with these young people. Having keychains that are LGBTQ affirming is also a great way to show support. Or you could even have them on your car. You can have LGBTQ some affirmation on a bumper sticker, you can have an HRC sticker on your car, but really anything you put out there, that's LGBTQ affirming. It's going to catch the eye of the young person who's looking for the clue, because as I said, some young people were coming home to their foster homes and seeing a handout from a training, you know, and being like, Ooh, what's this? You know, it doesn't have to be anything special. I think it's just, you know, has to be out there for them to see.
Yeah, such a good point. Thank you so much, Angela weeks for being with us today to talk about the issues faced with adopting or fostering a child who identifies as LGBTQ plus, thank you so much for being with us today.
Thanks for having me.
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