Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. Collection and Use of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data


The study sites’ approaches to gathering information on sexual orientation and gender identity include asking direct questions on intake and assessment forms and relying on youths’ self-disclosure during less formal conversations with staff. Two of the four agencies collect information on sexual orientation through questions on intake or assessment forms completed by staff or youth. In three agencies, intake or assessment forms include questions on gender identity that feature response options for transgender status.

Staff at all agencies reported using information on youths’ sexual orientation and gender identity when planning individual services. Staff use this information to tailor some services (such as referrals for counseling). In addition, staff use information on sexual orientation and gender identity (1) to determine housing and bathroom accommodations, (2) for assignment to case managers, and (3) in making appropriate health care referrals. No agencies reported that they analyze patterns of service use or outcome by sexual orientation and gender identity (or any other demographic characteristic). Agencies do not conduct these analyses because they do not record client-level sexual orientation or gender identity information in the agency’s management information system or other records, or because it is not their general practice to break down service use data by demographic group.

The accuracy of data on the number of LGBTQ youth served at the agency level and reported to the federal government is uncertain and might vary widely among agencies. Factors that appear to affect complete or accurate collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data include youths’ reticence in answering questions, concerns among staff members about protecting youths’ privacy and recording these characteristics in agency records, and the absence in some agencies of standardized protocols for gathering sexual orientation or gender identity information.

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