All agencies visited implement some organizational strategies that focus on LGBTQ youth, including adopting nondiscrimination and nonharassment policies and protecting the confidentiality of information shared by youth. Agencies differ in the extent to which they have implemented other organizational strategies, such as establishing a safe and affirming environment, developing staff skills in serving LGBTQ youth, and creating partnerships with other organizations serving LGBTQ youth. Opportunities to improve cultural competency in serving LGBTQ youth ranged from annual trainings on site in two agencies to occasional attendance at sessions offered at universities or conferences for staff at another agency.
Agencies also tailor a variety of services to make them more accessible or relevant to the needs and circumstances of LGBTQ youth. For example, agencies tailored housing programs to the needs of LGBTQ youth by assigning shared accommodations based on self-reported gender identity and providing private accommodations, when available, to address youths’ concerns about safety. These approaches were perceived to be especially helpful for transgender youth who could be concerned about sleeping in male or female dormitories. Two agencies offered services specifically for LGBTQ youth. One agency employs an LGBTQ case manager who develops individual service plans for LGBTQ-identified youth in its housing programs. Another operates a host home program specifically for LGBTQ youth, matching these youth with LGBTQ-supportive adults who offer youth transitional housing in private homes.
Staff in two agencies reported that they aim to facilitate reconciliation between LGBTQ youth and families when possible, but that such assistance is offered only to the extent a youth wishes to engage with her or his family. Agency staff did not report that efforts at family acceptance for LGBTQ youth are based on a formal intervention model. Rather, staff use general mediation strategies in their attempts to work with families.
Two factors that appear to affect tailoring of services to LGBTQ youth are the presence of staff with LGBTQ expertise and the perceived proportion of youth served who identify as LGBTQ. Having staff with appropriate expertise and a visible LGBTQ clientele may encourage agencies to take steps to better serve this population. Challenges that can impede efforts to improve or tailor services for LGBTQ RHY include (1) a lack of local resources that focus on LGBTQ youth; (2) the difficulty of overcoming social stigma, especially toward LGBTQ youth of color and transgender or gender-nonconforming youth; and (3) staff concerns about singling out a specific population of RHY while still being able to help all youth who need an agency’s services.