About the Project

Why was the research needed?

The research has provided new knowledge and understanding that can inform the care and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTQ) young people in care. There is hardly any research on LGBTQ young people in care in the UK, and without finding out about young people's experiences, it is difficult to know how well services are meeting their needs.

Our research tried to fill that gap. We do know that young people in care and LGBTQ young people both face a number of psychosocial risks, affecting self-esteem, mental health, identity and well-being. But we also know that young people in care have many strengths and can be helped to become more resilient. This study, therefore, focused on the needs of LGBTQ young people in care, but also on their strengths and their thoughts about the support on offer.

What did the study investigate?

  • findings from the UK and international policy, research and practice literature relevant to young people in care who identify themselves as LGBTQ
  • how young people in care who identify as LGBTQ negotiate their identities
  • how LGBTQ young people in care experience relationships with and support from their foster carers and residential workers; their social workers and other professional agencies; their peer group; and their communities – especially during the transition to adulthood
  • how foster carers experience caring for / parenting LGBTQ young people in care
  • how social workers and other professionals, including residential workers, teachers and mental health professionals, experience care planning for and supporting LGBTQ young people in care
  • how current policies in England and Wales and services provided meet the needs of LGBTQ young people in care and their caregivers

What was the methodology?

  • A mapping survey of 118 local authorities in England, identifying the support and services available for LGBTQ young people in their care, as well as the training available for foster carers and residential staff.
  • In-person narrative interviews with 46 LGBTQ young people between the ages of 14 and 26 who had spent at least six months in the care system. Narrative interviews were used to explore young people’s identity because they allowed for flexible and sensitive interviewing and placed the participants in charge of what and how much they said.
  • 26 telephone interviews with current foster carers who have looked after an LGBTQ young person.
  • Three focus groups with professionals who work with looked after young people.
  • The team included a group of young researchers who were involved at all stages of the research.

The study was approved by the University of East Anglia School of Social Work Ethics Committee. It is an Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) approved project (ref: RGE150113).