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Disproportionate Numbers of LGBTQ Youth Report Living in Foster Care and Unstable Housing


A higher proportion of California youth living in foster care and unstable housing identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) than the general population of youth, according to a new study published in the March 2019 issue of Pediatrics. The study, “LGBTQ Youth in Unstable Housing and Foster Care,” published online Feb. 11, analyzed results from the 2013-2015 California Healthy Kids Survey provided by 593,241 students enrolled in grades 6 thought 12. Fewer than 1 percent of the sample were in foster care, but of those youth, 30.4 percent identified as LGBTQ. About 3.5 percent of the students surveyed reported living in unstable housing, and of those youth, 25.3 percent identified as LGBTQ. In comparison, data from a 2015 national sample of youth found 11.2 percent identified as LGBTQ. The researchers, who reviewed survey results from 593,241 students enrolled in grades 6 through 12, also examined disparities in school functioning, substance use and mental health. They found disparities for LGBTQ youth are exacerbated when they live in foster care or unstable housing, defined as living in a friend’s home, hotel, motel, shelter or other transitional housing. Youth in both groups showed disparities in victimization and mental health, while those in unstable housing showed disparities in school functioning and substance use. The authors recommend the need for care that is affirming and respectful of youth’s sexual orientation and gender identity.


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