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Best Practice Principles: Gay and Lesbian Youth in Care

“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: vulnerability versus empowerment-using inclusive language (being aware of heterosexist bias), picking up on hints that youth may not be heterosexual, mediating with others as youth work things out, respecting the privacy of youth, and if you don’t normally make a formal note of a youth’s heterosexuality do not mention a youth’s homosexuality; stigmatization versus validation-individualizing messages, affirming the youth, reframing differences as unique traits, nurturing the youths’ pride, and making sure the youth are seen as normal; and acceptance versus rejection-welcoming, being engaged with the youth, keeping an open mind, connecting youth with other gay and lesbian youth, and reflecting rather than instructing.