LGBTQ Training Moves Ahead

A project training social workers and other child welfare professionals on ways to effectively serve out-of-home lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) youth reached its goal in March.

NASW, the NASW Foundation and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund joined forces last year to design and launch a train-the-trainer project. The overall objective has been to improve the capacity, knowledge and skills of social workers and other child welfare professionals to better serve the needs of LGBTQ youth living in foster care, juvenile justice centers and homeless shelters. The project was funded by the Tides Foundation.

This specific group of young people are particularly vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse, depression, substance abuse and suicide. For these reasons, NASW and Lambda officials recognized the critical importance of developing tools to train child welfare professionals to be responsive to the needs of this group.

"Social workers play a significant role in the care that LGBTQ youth receive and it is imperative that we are sensitive to their needs," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark.

NASW assembled a team of LGBTQ social work experts to serve as the advisory committee for the project by seeking volunteers from the NASW National Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, said Rita Webb, NASW policy advisor for Women and LGBT Issues. Members Diane Elze and Robin McHaelen played key roles in meeting the project objectives.

From there, about 40 master trainers were selected from approximately 100 applicants. An effort was made to select master trainers with diverse cultural and racial backgrounds from various regions of the country. The training, "Moving the Margins: Training Curriculum for Child Welfare Services with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth in Out-of-Home Care," was developed and pilot tested. The train-the-trainer sessions were held earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chicago, and Seattle.

"The advisory committee, NASW and Lambda staff worked as partners to ensure a full review of the draft curriculum," said Webb. She noted that the curriculum was refined based on suggestions and feedback from the trainers.

At the end of March, the goal of training 40 master trainers was achieved, said Webb. The master trainers are committed to conducting further trainings, she said. "Some have already scheduled and completed training in their home states," she said. In addition, NASW hosted a Specialty Practice Sections' teleconference "Coming Out in Care: What Social Workers Need to Know About LGTBQ Youth" in April, building on the experience of the three train-the-trainer sessions.

As a result of the Out-of Home Youth project, it is anticipated that at least 1,600 service providers will be better able to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care.

James Toy and Cheryl Parks, who serve on the NASW National Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, volunteered to evaluate drafts of the train-the-trainer curriculum.

"I'm a clinical social worker and I have a concern for LGBTQ youth," Toy said. "This project focuses on one of my concerns and it is hoped that it ultimately will help these youth because they face a higher risk of harassment and physical assault. I empathize with their situation. I think we all deserve to be treated equally."

Get more information at Practice: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender.