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

Jessica N. Fish, Laura Baams, Armeda Stevenson Wojciak, Stephen T Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume89
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Child welfare
  • Disparities
  • Foster care
  • LGB
  • Sexual minority youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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