Background: Preliminary evidence suggests that sexual minority (e.g. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and same-sex attracted) youth are overrepresented in child welfare services. Yet, no study to date has been able to test this hypothesis with national data. Objective: Using a two-study design, we test whether sexual minority youth are overrepresented in child welfare, foster care, and out-of-home placement using nationally representative data from the United States. Participants and setting: Study 1 data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 14,154; Mean age = 15.4). Study 2 data are from wave three of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II (n = 1309; Mean age = 15.0). Methods: For Study 1, we use adjusted logistic regression models to test differences in lifetime foster care involvement between sexual minority and heterosexual youth. In Study 2, we calculate a Disproportionality Representation Index (DRI) – a ratio of sample prevalence relative to the general population – to estimate whether sexual minority youth were overrepresented in child welfare and out-of-home care. Results: Study 1 results indicate that sexual minority youth are nearly 2.5 times as likely as heterosexual youth to experience foster care placement (aOR = 2.43, 95% CI 1.40, 4.21, p =.002). Results from Study 2 show that sexual minority youth were largely overrepresented in child welfare services (DRI = 1.95–2.48) and out-of-home placement (DRI = 3.69–4.68). Conclusions: Findings are the first to demonstrate sexual minority youth's overrepresentation in child welfare, foster care, and out-of-home placement using nationally representative data and emphasizes the need for focused research on sexual minority youth involved in the child welfare system.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (awarded to Fish) grant number F32AA023138 . This research was also supported by grants, P2CHD042849 , awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin , and P2CHD041041 , awarded to the Maryland Population Research Center , by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Russell acknowledges support from the Priscilla Pond Flawn Endowment at the University of Texas at Austin and Baams from the Communities for Just Schools Fund .
- Child welfare
- Foster care
- Sexual minority youth