Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. A. Addressing LGBTQ Identity in Assessments


Agency staff conduct assessments during initial intake sessions and subsequent meetings with youth. These assessments focus on triaging to determine immediate needs, detailing personal circumstances, and identifying risk factors or barriers that may need to be addressed through longer-term services. Intake forms gather information on such topics as (1) living situation and reasons for homelessness; (2) physical and mental health status; (3) education history; (4) employment history and income; (5) involvement with other agencies (such as child welfare or juvenile justice); (6) experience with domestic violence; and (7) needs for food, shelter, and identification. Subsequent meetings, such as conversations between youth and licensed mental health staff, may address a broader range of issues and include more detailed assessments of risks and needs related to mental health status, experience with abuse or neglect, and substance abuse.

Some agencies’ assessment tools address sexual orientation and gender identity, but no agencies reported using tools that specifically target LGBTQ youth. Questions on life skills or health assessments can prompt discussion of issues related to LGBTQ identity. For example, according to staff at one agency, administration of the Casey Life Skills Assessment, which includes a question on comprehension of sexual orientation and gender identity concepts, sometimes leads to further conversations about these topics.10 Another agency’s health risk assessment form includes a question on sexual orientation and gender identity. This question helps staff put into context later items addressing safer sex practices and may also trigger discussions with youth about concerns related to sexual orientation or gender identity development.

Some staff reported that they assess needs or circumstances related to LGBTQ identity based on their own knowledge of these issues and techniques for exploring them with clients. For example, one staff member reported that she discusses sexual orientation and gender identity development milestones during individual meetings with youth, if these topics are of concern. With LGBTQ-identified youth, she inquires whether and to whom youth have disclosed their LGBTQ status, and, if so, the kinds of responses they have received.

10 The Casey Life Skills Assessment is a self-administered or interview-based questionnaire that assesses youths’ behaviors, knowledge, and awareness in eight life skill areas. Youth indicate whether statements presented in the tool “are like me” using a five-point scale. Under the Relationships and Communication area, the assessment presents the statement, “I can explain the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.” For more information about this tool, see:

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