Gay legal group Lambda Legal and the Child Welfare League of America launched a new publication this week to help the child welfare system better meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in foster care.

“We found that the needs of LGBT youth in care are by and large the same no matter where they live,” said Rudy Estrada, staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s foster care project.

“From large urban cities to small rural towns – not enough is being done to keep these young people safe. That kind of coast to coast consensus makes this book applicable to child welfare services everywhere.”

According to Lambda Legal, ‘Out in the Margins: A Report on Regional Listening Forums Highlighting the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth in Care,’ compiles the experiences of LGBT youth in care and offers solutions to end the problems they face in the foster care, juvenile justice, and homeless/transitional living systems.

The information, the organisation says, was gathered during 13 listening forums attended by over 500 people – including social workers, service providers, administrators, caregivers, and LGBT youth who are or were in care – from 22 states in 2003-2004. The publication is available free of charge upon request or downloadable from either organisation’s Website.

“This report offers recommendations for policy makers and practitioners who want to make a difference in the lives of LGBT youth,” said Rob Woronoff, LGBT programme director at the Child Welfare League of America. “The experiences and practical solutions in this report come directly from the people who are most affected – the youth and their advocates, caregivers, and service providers.”

Lambda Legal says that “Out of the Margins” builds upon the organisation’s 2001 publication, “Youth in the Margins,” a tool aimed at providing child welfare administrators with recommendations on policies, training, and services to better meet the needs of LGBT youth in care.

CWLA’s body of publications dedicated to LGBT youth has recently expanded to include “CWLA Best Practice Guidelines: Serving LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care,” as well as a special issue of their journal, “Child Welfare,” entirely dedicated to LGBT youth in child welfare.

This fall, the two groups say they will launch a free toolkit with a variety of handouts aimed at providing additional educational information specifically geared for the child welfare community, from foster parents, to LGBT youth in care, to social workers.

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