Primary Sources: Youth Workers Weigh in on Improving LGBTQ Youths' Access to Services

Photograph of a young woman holding a rainbow umbrella.

Service Accessibility for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth” (abstract). Forthcoming from Youth & Society. Published online June 1, 2011.

What it's about: This study looks into the factors that might prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth from getting the help they need, such as mental and physical health care and referrals to housing. Researchers surveyed youth workers in Tampa Bay, FL. Participants had to have worked with 12- to 18-year-olds, including LGBTQ youth, for at least two of the past six years.

Why read it: Research has shown that LGBTQ youth are more likely to have some health and social problems than their straight peers. At the same time, LGBTQ youth are believed to use services less frequently than their peers. While this study mainly focused on schools, youth workers in other settings may take away important points about how they can help LGBTQ youth overcome barriers to getting social services.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Youth workers surveyed suggested that some of the reasons youth might not get help include being afraid for their safety, being asked to come out when they try to get services, not knowing that services exist, and not having access to services targeted toward the needs of LGBTQ youth.

The youth workers also suggested strategies to improve services for LGBTQ youth. For example, they said youth-serving organizations could

  • institute a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and discrimination;
  • insist on inclusive language and hold open discussions about stereotypes;
  • solicit LGBTQ youths' input on program development, policy and procedures; and
  • set rigorous guidelines about disclosure and confidentiality among youth and staff.

Additional reference: See “Healthy People 2010: Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health" (PDF, 5.28MB) for more information about health care and social services for LGBTQ people. You might also want to consult "Primary Sources: What Nonprofits Can Learn From Schools About Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Young People."

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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