LGBTQ+ Youth

SFCASA Advocacy Areas

Access to Healthcare, Placement and Housing

Why We Advocate

Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or queer are over-represented within the foster care system. Some LGBTQ+ youth come into care because of a lack of acceptance from their families, and those within care are more likely to experience discrimination and abuse because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 

Sexual orientation refers to a person's emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to people. 

Gender identity refers to a person’s internal identification as male, female, or something outside of the gender binary. Gender identity does not always match a person’s assigned sex, which means that a person may identify as either nonbinary (gender nonconforming) or transgender. Sexual orientation and gender identity should not be conflated, and assumptions about either should not be made based on a youth’s gender expression.

Gender is a spectrum, with individuals expressing themselves through varying degrees of masculinity and femininity. Gender expression is how people communicate their gender to others, through clothes, mannerisms, hairstyles, etc., and it can be fluid or situational.

LGBTQ+ foster youth are more likely to experience stigma, discrimination, bullying, physical violence, impermanence, and homelessness. As a result, an LGBTQ+-identifying youth is 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide. Discrimination can take many forms. For example: not being allowed to wear clothing that is consistent with their gender identity, not being given proper protection and support in the school environment, or failure to use requested pronouns that are in accordance with their gender identity.

How to Advocate

As a CASA working with a youth who either identifies as LGBTQ+ or is questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation, it is important that you show up as an ally. You can do this by modeling acceptance and support while actively ensuring their rights are protected and their well-being is prioritized. There are many different ways to proactively advocate in this area on your youth’s behalf. Check out some of our ideas below!

Behind-the-scenes:

    • Expand your knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues and examine your own biases. Check out the many resources listed below to learn more. 

    • Gently correct those using your youth’s incorrect pronouns, name, or qualifiers. This is a small but significant way you can advocate for your youth’s rights. 

    • Advocate for them to receive appropriate sexual health services.  

    • Ensure they are getting support at school and with their team.

    • Access grant funding as needed to help your youth get the tools and items they may need to express themselves. Check out our Financial Support page for more information about funding options. 

    • Prioritize permanency. Foster youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are much more likely to experience discrimination by those they know, as well as those they do not know. Given this, CASAs should advocate for permanent connections to be prioritized that feel safe and nurturing for your youth.

    • Respect confidentiality and do not “out” your youth. Your youth may have shared about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with you, but do not share that with others unless they explicitly give you permission to do so. 

With your youth: 

    • Create a safe space by actively and nonjudgmentally listening to them if they want to speak about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Do not bring this subject up if your youth has not alluded to the subject or seems uncomfortable speaking directly with you about it. It should be a conversation that is relevant to your advocacy work around permanency, placement, and safety.  

    • Use appropriate pronouns and names. If your youth explicitly asks you to refer to them by a particular pronoun and/or name or mentions this in passing, it is vital that you make the effort to abide by that. Additionally, if you are working with a transgender, gender variant, or gender queer youth and are not sure what pronouns they prefer, just ask!

    • Use general neutral language. Never make assumptions. For example, rather than asking, “Do you have a girlfriend?” you might ask about important relationships. 

    • Explore gender neutral activities to do together. If you and your youth are looking for activity ideas to do together or extracurricular activities for them to do on their own, do not limit your search to things that you think they would like based on how you perceive their identity. Keep it broad, and let them guide the search process! 

    • Empower your youth to be themselves and normalize the process of questioning their identity and sexuality. This process is normal for young people, and it is not always straightforward. Let them know that they don’t have to know, and make sure to avoid all labels and assumptions based on how they identify in one moment, since it can shift in the next. 

    • Talk to them about their rights and healthcare needs. See our “Legal” section below to learn more.

    • Connect them with local resources/communities of support that allow them to feel safe and seen. See our “Resources” section below to learn more.

Appropriate language to use as a CASA

As a CASA, it is crucial to approach your youth’s gender identity and sexual orientation in a nonjudgmental manner. Focus on approaching this subject with your youth using strategies like open-ended questions, and follow these questions up with active listening and validation to ensure there is an atmosphere of acceptance. 

Remember: it is only appropriate to bring up this subject if your youth indicates they would like to speak about it or are in need of support around it. Listen for cues and language that may invite a discussion to ensure that your youth feels safe and respected. 

Please reference this resource from California CASA for additional general conversation tips when working with your youth. 

Legal Rights

LGBTQ+ foster youth in California receive special protection within the child welfare system against harassment and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV/AIDS status. These protections include: the right to dress however they want, the right to go by the name of their choosing, and  the right to connect to LGBTQ+ activities and resources. They also have a constitutional right to be given equal access to all available services, placement options, and benefits. 


Furthermore, it is illegal for group home facilities to not provide equal support and protection to LGBTQ+ youth. The California Foster Care Nondiscrimination Act mandates that all group home administrators and foster parents receive ongoing training on the right to equal access of services and the right to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

These rights are further protected through the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, which allow all youth the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, such as being able to dress according to their own gender identity. Find out more information about LGTBQ foster youth rights here

Resources/links to learn more

California CASA conversation about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE)

LGBTQI Glossary   

12 Tips for Advocating for LGBTQ Youth

LGBTQ Youth in the California Foster Care System: A Question and Answer Guide

Queer & Trans Youth in California Foster Care Have Rights: A Know Your Rights Guide 

Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools

I Think I Might Be Transgender, Now What Do I Do? 

Steps for Advocating for LGBTQ Foster Youth in Schools

An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBTQ Americans

Getting Down to Basics: Tools to Support LGBTQ Youth in Care

Advocates for Intersex Youth

Hotlines:

  • CUAV (Community United Against Violence): (415) 333-HELP 

  • GLBT Hate Crimes Hotline: (800) 686-HATE

  • Gay & Lesbian National Hotline: (888) THE-GLNH

  • LYRIC Youth Talk Line: (800) 246-PRIDE, A peer talk line for LGBTQ youth 23 and under. Monday-Saturday, 6:30-9pm.

  • National Runaway Hotline: (800) 231-6946

  • San Francisco AIDS Hotline: (800) FOR-AIDS

  • San Francisco Sex Information: (415) 989-SFSI (7374), free, confidential, accurate, non-judgmental information about sex. 3-9 PM Monday through Thursday, 3-6 PM Friday, 2-5 PM Sunday.

Partner Organizations

There are many organizations both locally and nationally striving to support LGBTQ+ individuals. Check out these organizations below: 

National:

  • Family Acceptance Project® (FAP): National research, education and training program that helps families to support their LGBT children. Provides training on using research-based family support approach and educational materials for families, providers and religious leaders. This includes special film screenings and trainings for families, youth, community events, congregations and religious institutions. 

  • Gender Spectrum: Provides education and support for families with transgender and gender diverse children and youth, and an annual conference for children, youth and families. Comprehensive training for schools and organizations working with children and teens. Training includes education on gender identity and gender expression for teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Guidance to help organizations develop inclusive policy.

  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC): FamilyNet, A resource and online information base for LGBT families sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.

  • National Center for Lesbian Rights 

Alameda County:

  • The Pacific Center: Extensive LGBTQ youth programming, including free drop-in groups, counseling and opportunities for activism. The Pacific Center also offers HIV counseling and information about testing sites.

  • Girlz Alliance Girls Inc. of Alameda: Teenage lesbian, bisexual, and questioning female support group meets Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30.

  • Lighthouse Community Center: Serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community of southern Alameda County.

  • Lambda Project: Lambda youth, ages 16-25, meet weekly for support, give presentations to schools through the Speakers Bureau, and coordinate the Gay Prom and other events.

  • Tri-City Health Center: Drop in LGBTQ teen rap group on Thursdays, 3:30-4:30. Adolescent drug and alcohol outpatient services, Wednesday 3:30-5:00. Counseling for families around youth and school issues.

  • Qulture Collective: Brings together artists, entrepreneurs, activists, and visionaries from queer and allied communities. Generates an ongoing cycle of support and jobs that will benefit the community for years to come.

  • Asian and Pacific Islander Family Pride (General/Adult): Works to end the isolation of Asian and Pacific Islander families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members through support, education, and dialogue.

  • Oakland LGBTQ Community Center (General/Adult): Dedicated to enhancing and sustaining the well-being of LGBTQ individuals, our families, and our allies by providing educational, social, and health related activities, programs and services.

Contra Costa County:

  • Center for Human Development Empowerment Leadership Group and Queer Youth Action Team. Join other gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth, ages 23 or under, for:discussion, friendship, and support. Confidential groups meet weekly. 

Marin County:

  • Spectrum: Spectrum is currently hosting a monthly support group for LGBTQ youth ages 14-19.

Sacramento County:

  • Zuna Institute: Zuna proposes that in order to counter the effect of the disproportionate impact of social discrimination and stigma on black lesbians, they need the development of a healthy black lesbian identity.

  • Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center: The Center provides a safe place for LGBT people to seek free legal assistance, referrals and information without judgment.

San Francisco County:

  • Larkin Street Youth Services: With 25 comprehensive youth service programs located throughout San Francisco in over 13 sites, Larkin Street Youth Services is now an internationally recognized model successfully integrating street outreach and emergency shelter, primary medical care, transitional housing, and job training and scholarship assistance to get homeless and at risk kids off the streets.

  • The Ark of Refuge: The Ark of Refuge runs a 15 person transitional living facility specifically targeting LGBTQ young adults in San Francisco.

  • Young Women's Freedom Center: A leadership and advocacy organization led by cis and trans women and girls of color who grew up in poverty, experienced incarceration, or worked in the underground street economy, and who have been criminalized by social services such as foster care, welfare, public education, and the mental health system.

  • Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center: AQU25A (Asian & Pacific Islander Queer and Questioning Under 25, Altogether) is a program of Asian/Pacific Islander (including multiracial/multiethnic APA) LGBTQ+ youth age 25 and under.

  • Community United Against Violence (CUAV): In person counseling, restraining orders, support groups, queer youth training collaborative, employment and job training.

  • Dimensions Clinic (At Castro Mission Health Center): Comprehensive health services for LGBTQ+ youth. Drop-in or make an appointment, open from Thursdays 5:00-8:00 p.m., Saturdays 12-3 P.M.

  • LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center): Social, recreational and support activities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, 23 and under. Also provides youth activism opportunities through the Queer Youth Leadership Project.

  • San Francisco LGBT Community Center: The Youth Program engages LGBTQ youth 16-24 years old through educational and arts programs that emphasize community building, advocacy and leadership. Provides weekly meal nights, arts activities, workshops and the annual SF Queer Prom.

San Mateo County: 

  • Sexual Identity Forum, Redwood City Youth Health Center: Support group for youth ages 12-23 on Wednesdays from 7:30-9:00 P.M.

  • Outlet:  Outlet empowers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQQ+) youth and builds safe and accepting communities through support, education, and advocacy.

Santa Clara County:

  • Billy Defrank LGBT Community Center: LGBTQ Youth Space is a community drop-in center and mental health program for LGBTQ and allied youth ages 13-25 who live in Santa Clara County.

  • Outlet Program: Group mentoring, counseling, leadership training, teacher, counselor and other youth provider trainings, speakers bureau, community education and outreach, Friday Outlet HIV discussion groups.

Solano County:

CE opportunities

None at this time.