Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Grantees. Research Needs


We asked staff in case study agencies to identify the kinds of information and research that might help them understand the characteristics and experiences of LGBTQ RHY more completely and provide effective services to this population. Staff recommended future research in six general areas:

  1. Size of the LGBTQ RHY population in local areas. According to agency staff, community-level data on the number of RHY who identify as LGBTQ would help agencies understand whether they are reaching this population successfully. These data also may help them gauge whether current services align with the characteristics of the local RHY population.
  2. Characteristics of subpopulations of LGBTQ youth. Staff perceived transgender youth (including transgender youth of color) and LGBTQ RHY of color in general to be at particularly high risk of poor outcomes, but little is known about the proportion of the RHY population these youth comprise, the specific risk factors prevalent among them, or their outcomes.
  3. Risk and protective factors among LGBTQ RHY. Staff members pointed to three risk factors that appear to be prevalent among LGBTQ RHY and could be better understood: (1) types and severity of mental health disorders, (2) prevalence and factors contributing to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and (3) prevalence of intimate partner and dating violence among LGBTQ RHY. According to staff, experiences among LGBTQ youth also have the potential to support development of protective factors or personal capacities. In particular, resiliency among LGBTQ homeless youth may increase as they learn to contend with discrimination.
  4. Factors contributing to LGBTQ youth homelessness. Additional research on the reasons LGBTQ youth become homeless would help providers identify and address the potentially varied and distinct factors contributing to this problem.
  5. Experiences of LGBTQ youth involved in multiple systems. Homeless youth may be involved in several public systems, especially the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Staff in case study agencies indicated a need for information on the perceptions of these systems among LGBTQ RHY and efforts to link across systems to better serve this population.
  6. Service models and administrative strategies that focus on LGBTQ RHY. Agency staff frequently expressed a need for intervention models targeting LGBTQ RHY and information on the effectiveness of these interventions in various service contexts (for example, urban or rural areas). Staff mentioned a particular interest in models for promoting family engagement and reunification and positive youth development among LGBTQ youth.

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