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More data needed on LGBTQ youth of color in child welfare, juvenile justice systems

A non-binary student taking notes in class.(Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection)

LOS ANGELES — A collection of working papers at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found this week there is a lack of knowledge about LGBTQ youth of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems

The Williams Institute conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

“We lack rigorous data on LGBTQ youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and other systems, which prevents us from monitoring the well-being of this vulnerable population over time,” said co-editor Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute, in a press release.

In April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families announced that it will not implement an Obama-era rule that required child welfare departments to gather and report data related to the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of youth in the foster care system.

“The data collection requirement aimed to improve our understanding of the characteristics and experiences of youth coming in and out of the system,” said co-editor Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “With those data, we would be able to analyze whether there are gaps in care, whether there are certain groups experiencing disparities and whether the systems’ efforts to reduce disparities among at-risk youth are effective.”

The Institute said that existing research has found that LGBTQ youth of color are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Structural racism and LGBTQ stigma likely increase the risk of that LGBTQ youth of color will enter these systems. Once in the system, LGBTQ youth of color tend to remain longer and face an elevated risk of discrimination and violence compared to other groups of youth.

The scholars said more research is needed to understand the experiences of LGBTQ youth of color and prevent harm.

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