Are sexual minority youth overrepresented in foster care, child welfare, and out-of-home placement? Findings from nationally representative data

Child Abuse Negl. 2019 Mar;89:203-211. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Jan 29.

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Child welfare; Disparities; Foster care; LGB; Sexual minority youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Homosexuality, Female / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology