From the Editor: Gay and No Place to Go, Redux

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by Gerald P. Mallon

Twenty-six years ago, in 1992, I published one of the first peer-reviewed articles I ever wrote: Gay and No Place to Go (Mallon, 1992) in this journal, Child Welfare. It was also the first article on this topic that had ever been published in Child Welfare. As a young academic, being the first to research and write about a topical area can be exciting—but it is a lonely place, too, to be the only one writing about a topic that was considered then to be controversial and taboo. Creating scholarship about “gay” issues (at that time, information related to people identifying as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender remained largely unwritten about) was uncharted—and in some cases dangerous—new territory. Some well-intentioned but misguided colleagues warned me in those early days: “Don’t write about this ‘gay’ stuff. You will never get an academic job; you will never get grants; you will never get published.” And although I chose not to listen to those voices, and was encouraged by others to follow my passion, I must admit that there were times when doing this work was a very lonely, sometimes painful, experience.

The Child Welfare League of America was at that time led by the great David Liederman, who set the groundwork for beginning this important discussion about the needs of youth identifying as gay and lesbian. CWLA had the foresight and the bravery to approach this issue head-on by publishing the proceedings from a national convening of experts in the field of gay and lesbian child welfare (Child Welfare League of America, 1991).

In 1994, I finished my doctoral dissertation on the topic (Mallon, 1994), and few other articles followed (Sullivan, 1994). In 2002, CWLA again sought to surface issues about youth in child welfare settings who identified as transgender, publishing the proceedings from another national gathering of professionals (DeCrescenzo & Mallon, 2002).  Six more years went by, and Woronoff and Mallon (2006) produced the first special issue on youth who are LGBTQ and in child welfare, again in Child Welfare journal. And in 2012, in keeping with their history of providing guidelines for practitioners and policy-makers, CWLA published Recommended Practices to Promote the Safety and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Youth at Risk of or Living with HIV in Child Welfare Settings.

After more than a quarter century of researching about, writing about, and working with children, youth, and families who are LGBTQ and have been touched by child welfare systems, no one can imagine the great joy and immense pleasure I had in reading each of the articles in this rich, sophisticated two-volume special edition of Child Welfare focusing on SOGIE/LGBTQ issues and edited by my wonderful colleagues, Drs. Jama Shelton and Jeffrey Poirier. Happily, we received so many manuscript proposals for this special issue that we needed to expand it into two volumes.

Volume One centers on the twin themes of (1) data and evaluation and (2) youth who are transgender and gender expansive. In the first article, Poirier and colleagues focus on the experiences of and opportunities for improving services and outcomes for youth who are LGBTQ though the lens of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Creating safer spaces for youth who are LGBTQ in Broward County, Florida, is addressed in the second article by Greif-Hackett and Gallagher. The third article, by Lorthridge and colleagues, highlights findings from the PII-RISE Evaluation, studying a care coordination model for youth who are LGBTQ.

The Los Angeles County Foster Youth Study, described by Choi and Wilson, is the first article in the series of articles on youth who are transgender and gender expansive. Mountz and colleagues lift up voices from youth formerly in foster care who are transgender and gender expansive. Capturing gender fluidity in housing and child welfare is the topic of the final article in this volume, by Baker and colleagues.

Volume Two focuses on homelessness and child welfare and tools and systems improvement. Shelton and colleagues explore reversing erasure of youth and young adults who identify as LGBTQ and are accessing homelessness services. Robinson’s article examines child welfare systems and homelessness among youth who are LGBTQ. Homelessness with past child welfare system involvement is the focus of the article by Forge and colleagues, while Salazar and colleagues write about developing relationship-building tools for foster families caring for teens. Washburn and colleagues discuss implementing inclusive system improvements in child welfare. The final two articles, by Weeks and colleagues and Erney and Weber, address strengthening the workforce to support youth in foster care who are LGBTQ by increasing LGBTQ+ competency and strategies for serving youth of color who are LGBTQ and in out-of-home care.

This excellent two-volume special issue of Child Welfare is chock full of cutting-edge scholarship that can advance policies, practices, and programs as they relate to children and youth who are LGBTQ and affected by the child welfare system, are experiencing homelessness, and are facing other challenges. I am thrilled to have lived long enough to see a day when we have gathered such professional and scholarly work as is captured in these pages. My deepest appreciation is extended to all of the authors who have contributed to these volumes, to Dr. Jeffrey Poirier and Dr. Jama Shelton for their excellent work in soliciting, reviewing, and editing these articles, and to CWLA for their bravery and continued commitment to children and youth who identify as LGBTQ. I am proud to be the Senior Editor of this journal and to be affiliated with an organization that has vigorously sought to make the world a better place for all children, youth, and families. We challenge federal, state, and local entities, and public and private child welfare agencies, to continue to search for ways to better meet the needs of children and youth who identify as LGBTQ.

Gerald P. Mallon, DSW
Senior Editor, Child Welfare

 

References

Child Welfare League of America. (1991). Serving the needs of gay and lesbian youths: The role of child welfare agencies, Recommendations of a Colloquium – January 25–26, 1991. Washington, DC: Author.

Child Welfare League of America. (2012). Recommended Practices to Promote the Safety and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Youth at Risk of or Living with HIV in Child Welfare Settings. Washington, DC: Author.

DeCrescenzo, T., & Mallon, G.P. (2002). Serving transgender youth: The role of child welfare systems (Monograph). Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

Mallon, G. P. (1992). Gay and no place to go: Assessing the needs of gay and lesbian adolescents in out-of-home care settings. Child Welfare, 71(6), 547–556.

Mallon, G.P. (1994). We don’t exactly get the welcome wagon: The experience of gay and lesbian adolescents in New York City’s child welfare system (Doctoral Dissertation). New York: City University of New York, The Graduate Center.

Sullivan, T. (1994). Obstacles to effective child welfare service with gay and lesbian youths. Child Welfare, 73(4), 291–304.

Woronoff, R., & Mallon, G.P. (Eds.). (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in child welfare. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

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