'The (In)visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Residential Child Care in Scotland'
Applied Social Studies The Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
Ragg et al (2006) refer to Mallon (1992, 1998, 2002) when stating that Positive identity development for gay and lesbian youth appears to be contingent on a stable and supportive environment. For gay and lesbian youth raised in out-of-home care, this situation can be bleak.' It is assumed that this North American experience is unlikely to be dissimilar to that in Scotland. There is a concern then that Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender young people in residential care are not having their particular needs met in relation to their sexual identity and orientation.
It is impossible to calculate accurately the number of LGBT young people in residential child care as this would depend upon all LGBT young people being confident enough, and willing, to identify themselves as such, but an estimate can be made based upon studies of both the general and the residential child care population. Recent research suggests that between 2 and 9 % of young people have had some same-sex sexual experience. (NATSAL - National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, of 19,000, 16-24 yr olds, in 2000). There are approximately 2500 young people in residential child care. Whatever the size of the population of LGBT young people in residential child care, they are present, often confused about their sexuality, sometimes, for some, self-consciously visible, or for others, safely invisible, as they perceive it, as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
This paper considers the degree of (in)visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues within residential child care in Scotland. Research was undertaken with two groups of individuals with an interest in the field of residential child care: 50 students undertaking a degree in social work but also working within the sector; 15 advocacy and children's rights workers who have contact with Looked After and Accommodated young people. The research looked into where LGBT issues featured in the areas of communication, physical environment, recording, counselling and social activities. The paper looks at the implications of degrees of (in)visibility for LGBT young people in residential child care and offers recommendations for changes in practice.