Gillian Schofield, Researcher, Centre for Research on Children and Families, United Kingdom
Jeanette Cossar, Researcher, Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia UK
Emma Ward, Researcher, Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia UK
There has been little research on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) young people in care and the role of their foster carers. Yet many of these young people and their carers face additional challenges in maintaining continuity of placement and relationships while young people are building their identities in the context of stigma. This paper draws on a new study in England, in which 46 young people and 26 foster carers were interviewed. A national survey and focus groups provided information about service provision and professional practice. The project was supported by a young researchers group, all of whom identified as LGBTQ and had experienced being in care. This paper will focus on findings from the interview data. The narrative interviews with LGBTQ young people highlighted the diversity of experiences of managing complex relationships and intersecting identities, while also managing their care status and separation from birth families. The theoretical framework for understanding how young people manage complex, stigmatised identities drew on the Minority Stress Model (Meyer, 2003). Foster carer interviews provided insights into the extra tasks involved in caring for LGBTQ young people, who often have experiences of abuse and loss, as other foster children have, but also need support with identity development, stigma, bullying, birth family contact and, for transgender children, the possibility of medical intervention. Foster carers need to work as part of a multi-agency network, while also providing young people with a warm and accepting family life.
Meyer, I.H (2003) Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674-697 sexuality, gender, identity development, narratives