As we celebrate National Pride Month, it is crucial to learn how we can support the LGBTQ young people in our lives.
Based on data from The Trevor Project, we know that:
- More than 1.8 million LGBTQ people aged 13-24 consider suicide each year.
- The support of one adult in their lives can reduce the chance of a suicide attempt by 40 percent.
Additionally, we know from the Family Acceptance Project (2009) that LGBTQ young people in a rejecting environment are:
- Eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Six times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Three times more likely to use drugs.
It is data like this, as well as a lack of knowledge of who the LGBTQ young people are in the Cuyahoga County child welfare system, that led the Division of Children and Family Services to act.
A federal grant has empowered DCFS to work with the University of Maryland, The Children’s Bureau, and other local implementation sites to get support. We are two years into the grant and have increased the percentage of DCFS-involved youth who safely identify as LGBTQ from 2% to 11%. While we still have a lot of work to do, this is remarkable progress.
The grant project team conducted multiple training sessions with caseworkers, supervisors, and managers to assist them in developing the skills and increasing their comfort level to ask all young people ages 13 and up about their sexual orientation and gender identity.
We have a safe identification policy that acknowledges youth may not be ready or trusting enough to share this information. We need to protect this information when young people are willing to share.
Equally important, we are making sure we ask the next questions:
- Do they feel safe and secure at home, school and elsewhere where others may know or believe they identify as LGBTQ?
- What resources and services can we tailor to meet their needs in an affirming environment?
Young people who identify as LGBTQ may also experience racism. They may be in foster care or in a home with caregivers who do not celebrate them for who they are. They may be bullied, run away, get kicked out of their homes, or involved with juvenile justice.
It is up to all of us to have the hard conversations. Until we know, how can we help?