Topic: Supporting Sexual and/or Gender Minority (SGM) Youth: Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Supporting Sexual and/or Gender Minority (SGM) Youth: Programs:

The Supporting Sexual and/or Gender Minority (SGM) Youth: Programs topic area focuses on programs that increase the skills, knowledge, and supports of youth who are a sexual and/or gender minority, their parents or caregivers (including resource parents), and the providers and staff who work with them, such as caseworkers, congregate care providers, educators, and other professionals.

To help understand these youth, it is important to understand the differences between attraction, behavior, and identity in terms of both sexual orientation and gender identity. In terms of sexual orientation, attraction refers to experiencing romantic or sexual feelings towards a person, behavior refers to engaging in sexual conduct with a person, and identity refers to the label(s) one gives oneself in reference to these attractions and/or behaviors. In terms of gender identity, attraction refers to the feelings or desire to be a gender, behavior refers to what you do to help you be that gender, and identity refers to the label(s) one gives oneself in reference to these attractions and/or behaviors.

  • Sexual minority youth refer to individuals that experience a sexual attraction, behavior, or identity that is not for, or exclusively for, one person of the opposite sex. In other words, these youth are not straight. Attraction is experiencing romantic or sexual feelings toward members of the same sex, members of the same sex and the opposite sex interchangeably, multiple people at once, or no one. Behavior is engagement in sexual conduct with a member of the same sex, members of the same sex and opposite sex interchangeably, multiple people at once, or no one. Identity labels include both those of sexual orientation (i.e., identity for these youth would include lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and even asexual [i.e., having no sexual attraction for or behaviors with others]) as well as emerging terms such as “queer.”
  • Gender minority youth are those who have an attraction to being a gender that does not match their assigned sex at birth (i.e., feels like they are in the wrong body), exhibit the behaviors of a gender that does not match their assigned sex at birth (i.e., dresses like that gender or modifies how their hair or bodies look to appear as that gender), or identify as a gender that does not match their assigned sex at birth. This identified gender can be male or female (i.e., one of the binary genders) or neither of the binary genders. Identity for these youth would include transgender, transmale, transfemale, and even agender (i.e., having a gender identity that is not binary). Agender is also primarily known as nonbinary and genderqueer; however, many other labels, some having very specific meanings, have surfaced in recent years.
Traditionally, terms like Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) and variations of LGBTQ have been used to describe this population. The CEBC is using the term sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth to describe this population, as it is more commonly being used in the literature, is more inclusive and also more technical.

The term Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) is being increasingly used to address these characteristics overall. However, while “LGBT” is specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, SOGIE refers to characteristics common to all human beings because everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity. A person’s SOGIE is a key part of their identify, just like race and ethnicity. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) released an All County Letter in March 2019 defining the SOGIE terms that were going to be part of the data collection for the state and how they were to be entered: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2019/19-20.pdf?ver=2019-04-03-081756-557

Research has shown that SGM youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. This means that the percentage of youth in foster care who are SGM-identified is larger than the percentage of SGM youth in the general youth population. A recent study conducted in Los Angeles found that nearly 1 out of 5 (19.1%) LA-based foster youth identified as LGBTQ and the percentage of youth in foster care who are LGBTQ is between 1.5 and 2 times that of youth living outside of foster care. More specifically, the research found that there are 13.6% LGBTQ-identified youth in foster care compared to 7.2% in the general youth population, and 5.6% transgender youth in foster care compared to 2.25% in the general youth population. The CDSS released another All County Letter in October 2019 that addressed SOGIE awareness during child welfare intake: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2019/19-20.pdf?ver=2019-04-03-081756-557

SGM youth in foster care also face disparities – differences in experiences in care or treatment by the system. SGM youth enter the foster care system for many of the same reasons as non-SGM youth in care, such as abuse, neglect, and parental substance abuse. Many SGM youth have the added layer of trauma that comes with being rejected or mistreated because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These disparities are often attributed to the experience of stigma and discrimination including anti-SGM prejudice, violence, and victimization. Programs supporting SGM youth, their parents/caregivers and/or providers/staff should take into account the unique experience of being SGM, including prejudicial experiences.
  • Target population: Children and youth who identify as a sexual or gender minority, as well as their parents/caregivers and the providers who work with them
  • Services/types that fit: Services including assessment, case planning, case management, counseling, support groups, education, skills building, or mentoring that include unique considerations for SGM youth, as well as educational and skill-building programs for adults who work with these youth as caregivers and providers.
  • Delivered by: Child welfare caseworkers, trained paraprofessionals, educators, peer partners, and mental health professionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target the needs of youth who identify as a SGM, or the needs of the adults who care for and work with them
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by Scientific Rating Scale) that examines outcomes for youth who identify as SGM and their caregivers and associated providers, such as changes in knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors, as well as indicators of improved outcomes, such as placement stabilization, permanency, functioning, and well-being.

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Nine Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:


Topic Expert

Jeremy T. Goldbach, PhD, LMSW, Associate Professor, Senior Associate Dean, Faculty Affairs Director
Center for LGBT Health Equity, University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Los Angeles, CA