U.S. Department of Justice

LGBTQI Juveniles

Adolescents face a variety of challenges in their transition to adulthood. A recent study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign indicates that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth face additional challenges over their more tranditional peers that may impact them significantly. These challenges include discrimination, bullying, harassment, and exposure to physical and sexual violence. When the youth surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign were asked to describe the most important problem facing their lives, 26% of LGBT youth cited non-accepting families and 21% named school/bullying problems; while 15% of their non-LGBT peers identified classes/exams/grades and 14% said college/career as their most pressing concerns.

According to research by Garnette, Irvine, Reyes, and Wilber (2011)[1], LGBT youth are twice as likely to become homeless, generally due to rejection by family members and either voluntarily leave or are forced out of their homes. Homelessness exposes LGBT youth to increased risk of victimization, including assault, robbery, and rape. Some of these youth end up committing "survival crimes" such as theft and prostitution which lead them to contact with the criminal justice system. The work by Garnette et al, suggests that LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system.

While the above referenced research addresses LGBT as a group, NIC has chosen to include "Q" for Questioning and "I" for Intersex when referring to this juvenile population in our resources. NIC is committed to assisting correctional agencies in meeting the particular challenges associated with the housing and supervision of LGBTQI juveniles.

Particular topics for consideration include intake procedures, classification, placement and housing, medical and mental health care and treatment, suicide prevention, potential victimization, and staff and offender education. Policy development around these areas is especially important and may assist agencies in reducing negative outcomes for juveniles and legal liability to the agency.

Agencies wishing to examine and improve their response to the management of LGBTQI juvenile offenders may apply for limited, short-term technical assistance to aid their efforts.

[1] Garnette, L., Irvine, A., Reyes, C. and Wilber, S. (2011) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth and the Juvenile Justice System, in Juvenile Justice: Advancing Research, Policy, and Practice (eds F. T. Sherman and F. H. Jacobs), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. doi: 10.1002/9781118093375.ch8

Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
Document 031374
LGBT Youth in Juvenile Justice: Creating Agency Policies for an Equitable System Webinar
By Gilbert, Christina; Belmarsh, Lisa; Garnette, Laura. The Equity Project (Washington, DC); Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) (Washington, DC).
"Many juvenile justice systems don't know how many young people in their system identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) and often lack appropriate policies that meet their unique needs … This webinar discussed the need for agency policies to support LGBT young people in the juvenile justice system. Participants learned how the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services [DYS] and Santa Clara County Probation Department [SCCPD] developed policies for LGBT youth in their system, a... Read More

61 minutes
Document 031227
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
By Wilber, Shannan. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) (Baltimore, mD).
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and other "changes in law and policy have created new expectations of juvenile justice personnel. Implementation of these new requirements, however, varies widely across the country and has created a demand for clear professional guidance. This practice guide is a response to that demand and: provides an overview of key concepts and terminology related to SOGIE; summarizes the research on the effect of stigma and bias on the health and well-being of LGBT yo... Read More

52 pages
Document 031208
Improving Behavioral Health Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Gender Nonconforming (LGB/GNC) Youth in the Juvenile Justice System [Webinar]
By Irvine, Angela; Canfield, Aisha. Reclaiming Futures (Portland, OR).
"This workshop provided an overview of the many different intersecting identities held by young people in the youth justice system, including race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and immigration status. The presenters then focused on how LGN/GNC young people, particularly those of color, are driven into the youth justice system. The workshop ended with recommendations on how behavioral health professionals can improve their services to best meet the needs of LGB/GNC adolescents in the yout... Read More

60 minutes + 44 pages
Document 029896
LGBTQ Youth and Sexual Abuse: Information for Mental Health Professionals
By National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Child Sexual Abuse Collaborative Group. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (Rockville, MD). National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) (Los Angeles, CA).
While this tip-sheet is intended for mental health practitioners, it provides invaluable information for anyone working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Sections of this brief cover: terms to know when working with LGBTQ youth; continuums of sex, gender, and sexual orientation chart; issues and concerns for LGBTQ youth related to sexual orientation and sexual abuse; issues and concerns for parents of LGBTQ youth related to sexual orientation and s... Read More

7 pages
Document 029877
Toward Equity: Understanding Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression, and Developing Competency to Serve Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Training Curriculum
By Bergen, Sarah; Chiu, Linn; Curry, Tim; Gilbert, Christina; Reyes, Carolyn; Wilber, Shannon; Contributions from Anjuli Dow, Barb Fedders, Lou Goodman, Paula Hepner, Jody Marksamer, Patricia Puritz, Abigail Trillin, and Judy Yu.. The Equity Project (Washington, DC).
"This training curriculum provides comprehensive, interactive training lessons designed to increase competence about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE), while providing practitioners with increased knowledge, tools, and resources for working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in the juvenile justice system. Toward Equity aims to improve the experiences and outcomes of LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system by providing juvenile justice pe... Read More

185 pages
Document 029843
Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe under PREA: Alternative Strategies to the Use of Segregation in Prisons and Jails
By Hastings, Allison; Browne, Angela; Kall, Kaitlin; diZerega, Margaret. U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC); Vera Institute of Justice (New York, NY).
"The purpose of this guide is to provide prison and jail administrators and staff with strategies for safely housing inmates at risk of sexual abuse without isolating them. Inmates at risk for sexual victimization—whether identified through screening or victimized in confinement—need protection from abusers, equal access to programming and health and mental health services, and congregate opportunities" (p. 3). Sections of this document include: introduction; a brief look at the use of segregate... Read More

23 pages
Document 029819
Practice Guide: Creating a Juvenile Justice LGBTQ Task Force
By Brown, Bernadette E.; Canfield, Aisha; Irvine, Angela. National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) (Oakland, CA).
"In an effort to adopt policies and/or establish community relationships so that LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning] youth and their families have access to supportive resources, some jurisdictions convened LGBTQ task forces or workgroups. The purpose of this practice guide is to provide instruction regarding how to establish a task force along with guidance on handling possible challenges to this work. This guide is directed toward the individual or group of individuals... Read More
19 pages
Document 029759
Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex
By Dank, Meredith; Yahner, Jennifer; Madden, Kuniko; Banuelos, Isela; Yu, Lilly; Ritchie, Andrea; Mora, Mitchyll; Conner, Brendan. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Washington, DC). Urban Institute (Washington, DC).
This is "the first study to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) who get involved in the commercial sex market in order to meet basic survival needs, such as food or shelter. The report documents these youth’s experiences and characteristics to gain a better understanding of why they engage in survival sex, describes how the support networks and systems in their... Read More
94 pages
Document 029532
NDTAC Fact Sheet: Improving Services for Youth Who Are LGBT in Juvenile Justice Systems
By Rummell, Christian L.; Poirer, Jeffrey M.. National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk (NDTAC) (Washington, DC).
"To promote the safe, inclusive treatment of youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) in juvenile justice systems, this fact sheet serves as a resource to enhance the capacity of State and local administrators and practitioners to improve policies and practices" (p. 1). Sections of this fact sheet include: key concepts; experiences of youth who are LGBT; juvenile justice involvement among youth who are LGBT—a snapshot; entry of these youth into the juvenile justice system; ju... Read More
10 pages
Document 028254
Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems
By Perry, J. Rhodes; Green, Eli R.. New York City's (NYC) Administration for Children's Services (ACS), LGBTQ Policy and Practice Office (New York, NY).
You should be familiar with this report if you work with transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth. This guide "offers child welfare and juvenile justice practitioners concrete guidance, strategies for success, and resources that will enable staff to meet the specific needs of TGNC children and youth. The guide features an overview of the barriers that TGNC children and youth face in foster care and juvenile detention, a glossary of terms, an overview of affirming resources, policies, a... Read More
67 pages
Document 028171
Responding to Sexual Abuse of Youth in Custody: Responding to the Needs of Boys, Girls and Gender Non-Conforming Youth
American University. Washington College of Law. End to Silence (Washington, DC); National PREA Resource Center (Washington, DC).
"This is a 24-hour training covering the national Prison Rape Elimination Act Standards and implications for responding to the different needs of boys, girls and gender non-conforming youth who are sexually abused in custody. The following are the goals of this training: (1) review the applicable PREA Standards for responding to sexual abuse in custody and their gender impact; (2) review the dynamics of custodial sexual abuse for boys, girls and gender non-conforming youth; (3) identify the com... Read More
Document 028181
Ensuring Access to Mentoring Programs for LGBTQ Youth
By Mallory, Christy; Sears, Brad; Hasenbush, Amira; Susman, Alexandra. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). School of Law. The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy (Los Angeles, CA).
"Youth mentoring programs, such as those of 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, are an important strategy for supporting at-risk youth and preventing them from becoming entangled with the juvenile justice system. This white paper summarizes research showing that LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning] youth would benefit from access to these programs and makes recommendations for youth mentoring programs and local, state, and federal government... Read More
26 pages
Document 028084
LGBTQ Youth and Status Offenses: Improving System Responses and Reducing Disproportionality [Webinar]
By Pilnik, Lisa; Maril, Robin; Gilbert, Christina J.. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) (Washington, DC); Equity Project (n.p.); Coalition for Juvenile Justice (Washington, DC).
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are twice as likely as other youth to be sent to a juvenile detention facility for committing “status offenses” such as truancy or running away from home. LGBTQ youth are also overrepresented in the juvenile justice system generally, and once in the system are more likely to be the target of abuse and violence, including at the hands of other youth. LGBTQ youth may also receive overly harsh punishments due to biased decision-maki... Read More
59 minutes
Document 027944
A Practitioner's Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children
By Ryan, Caitlin. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHMSA) (Rockville, MD).
This resource guide provides very important information for individuals helping families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children involved with the juvenile justice system. Its intent is to help practitioners “understand the critical role of family acceptance and rejection in contributing to the health and well-being of adolescents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender … [and] implement best practices in engaging and helping families and caregivers to support... Read More
18 pages
Document 026483
LGBT Youth in Detention: Myth and Reality
Correctional Association of New York. New York Juvenile Justice Coalition (New York, NY).
Ten myths regarding justice-involved lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are addressed. The myths discussed are: adolescents are too youth to be aware of their sexual identity; LGBT youth are manipulative; LGBT youth should be less open about their sexuality in order not to get picked on; kids get picked on, so being LGBT should be no different; LGBT youth never complain so all must be OK; for their safety, LGBT youth should be separated from the general population; the only way... Read More
3 pages
Document 026621
Best Practice Principles: Gay and Lesbian Youth in Care
By Ragg, D. Mark; Patrick, Dennis. Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) (Washington, DC).
“For adolescents, developing and integrating their identity can be difficult. For gay and lesbian youth, this task is greatly complicated because they must integrate an identity that diverges from mainstream society … Gay and lesbian youth need help resolving adolescent identity crises” (p. 1). This article provides guidance for out-of-home care professionals in supporting gay and lesbian youth as they figure out who they are going to be. Best practices tend to cluster around three areas: vulne... Read More
4 pages
Document 030094
Breaking Barriers: Improving Services for LGBTQ Human Trafficking Victims: A Top Ten List for Service Providers and Criminal Justice Professionals // Breaking Barriers: Top Ten List
Palette Fund (New York, NY). Polaris (Washington, DC).
"Today, human trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, targeting the most at-risk individuals in our communities. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to compel others into commercial sex or to provide labor or services. Frequently targeting individuals who lack strong support networks, those who have histories of abuse, or those who are marginalized from their community, traffickers exploit the vulnerabilities in our communities most at-risk individuals … Where basic needs of LGBTQ [le... Read More

20 pages
Document 029909
Best Practices in Creating and Delivering LGBTQ Cultural Competency Trainings for Health and Social Service Agencies
By Margolies, Liz; Joo, Rej; McDavid, Jenna. New York State Dept. of Health. AIDS Institute (Albany, NY). National LGBT Cancer Network. Cultural Competency Coordination (C3) (New York, NY).
"The term [cultural competency training] has been used interchangeably with diversity education, cultural sensitivity training and multi-cultural workshops. Cultural competency is commonly understood as a set of congruent behaviors, knowledge, attitudes and policies that enable effective work in cross-cultural situations. Cultural competency training, therefore, aims to increase knowledge and skills to improve one’s ability to effectively interact with different cultural groups" (p. 5). This doc... Read More

48 pages
Document 028093
Keeping LGBTQ Youth Safe in Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Placements
Fostering Transitions (N.P.); Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) (Washington, DC); Lambda Legal (New York, NY).
“Many young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ) and in the custody of juvenile justice and delinquency systems are unsafe in their placements and are not receiving appropriate services. Professionals working within these systems must ensure that LGBTQ young people are protected from harm and supported in their development” (p. 1). This publication provides a brief, but very good, explanation of how people working w... Read More
2 pages
Document 028475
LGBTQ Youth of Color: Discipline Disparities, School Push-Out, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline
By Burdge, Hilary ; Licona, Adela C.; Hyemingway, Zami T.. Ford Foundation (New York, NY); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Atlanta, GA). Gay-Straight Alliance Network (gsanetwork) (San Francisco, CA); University of Arizona. Crossroads Collaborative (Tucson, AZ).
This is an excellent report about an issue that is little known—the involvement of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) youth of color in the juvenile justice system. Topics discussed include: LGBTQ youth of color and the school-to-prison pipeline (STPP); school push-out—the marginalization in school and/or forcing out of school of these youth before they graduate; LGBTQ youth of color report increased surveillance and policing; these youth report incidents of hars... Read More
16 pages
Document 028361
LGBTQ Youths in the Juvenile Justice System
U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Washington, DC). Development Services Group, Inc. (Bethesda, MD).
"Youths’ sexual orientations and gender identities are complex. Youths experience an ongoing process of sexual development as they mature into young adults. Adolescence presents a time in people’s lives when they are unsure of themselves and begin to question who they are … Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youths may present unique challenges in the juvenile justice system. Research has shown that LGBTQ youths are more likely to confront certain barriers and environme... Read More
13 pages
Document 029686
Restoring Justice: A Blueprint for Ensuring Fairness, Safety, and Supportive Treatment of LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
By Moodie-Mills, Aisha C.; Gilbert, Christina. Center for American Progress (CAP). FIRE (Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality) Initiative (Washington, DC); The Equity Project (New York, NY).
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, youth continue to be significantly over-represented in the nation’s juvenile justice system, even as overall rates of youth incarceration are on the decline … This brief [explains] what works for LGBT youth by outlining the critical components of model juvenile justice policies that are already being implemented around the country and offers sample language that all jurisdictions can adopt" (p. 1-2). Sections of this publication cover: LGBT yout... Read More
16 pages
Document 025596
The Legal Rights of Young People in State Custody: What Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Professionals Need to Know When Working with LGBT Youth
By Estrada, Rudy; Marksamer, Jody. National Center for Lesbian Rights (San Francisco, CA); Lambda Legal (New York, NY).
The legal rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth are discussed through the use of scenarios that show professionals in child welfare and juvenile justice what they may experience working with this population. This paper is divided into four parts: the Constitutional right to safety-- in foster care and juvenile detention and correctional facilities; other constitutional rights—the right to equal protection, and First Amendment rights; state non-discrimination laws; and co... Read More
17 pages

Available Training Opportunities

  • Available Online - Respectful Communication with LGBTQI Youth
    This course will provide you with strategies for communicating effectively and professionally with all youth, with a specific focus on LGBTQI youth. Estimated duration: 1 hour.