Although there is an increasing amount of information about the risks and challenges facing lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth with growing information about transgender children and youth, we know far less about their strengths and resiliency, including the strengths of families in supporting their children’s health and well-being. Even though the family is the primary support for children and youth, and family involvement helps reduce adolescent risk, there had been no previous comprehensive studies of how parental, caregiver and family reactions contribute to their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) children’s risk and well-being. Prior to this study, little information was available to show how families respond to learning about a child or adolescent’s LGBTQ identity and how family and caregiver reactions contribute to health, mental health and development for LGBTQ young people.
Attention to family reactions is critical since increasingly, children and youth are self-identifying at younger ages which significantly increases risk for victimization and stress in family, school and community settings, and provides opportunities for helping to support and strengthen families. Victimization has long-term consequences for health and development, and impacts families as well as the targeted individuals. Early intervention can help families and caregivers build on strengths and use evidence-based materials to understand the impact of acceptance and rejection on their child’s well-being.
The Family Acceptance Project® (FAP) is directed by Dr. Caitlin Ryan at the Marian Wright Edelman Institute at San Francisco State University, and was developed by Caitlin Ryan and Rafael Dìaz in 2002. It includes the first comprehensive study of LGBTQ youth and their families and the first evidence-informed family support model to help diverse families learn to support their LGBTQ children.
The project was designed to:
- Study parents’, families’ and caregivers’ reactions and adjustment to an adolescent’s coming out and LGBTQ identity.
- Develop research-based education, training and assessment materials for health, mental health, and school-based providers, child welfare, juvenile justice, family service workers, clergy and religious leaders, parents and caregivers on helping diverse families learn to support their LGBTQ children.
- Develop resources to strengthen families to support LGBTQ children and adolescents.
- Develop a new model of family-related care to prevent health and mental health risks, keep families together and promote permanency and well-being for LGBTQ children and adolescents. Findings are being used to inform policy and practice and to change the way that systems of care address the needs of LGBTQ children and adolescents.
FAP collaborated with Child and Adolescent Services at San Francisco General Hospital/University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and with community providers to develop a new family-oriented model of wellness, prevention and care for LGBTQ children and adolescents, based on our research. This new family-related approach helps ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families to decrease rejection and increase support to prevent risk and promote their LGBTQ children’s well-being. We provide training on our family intervention approach and using our research-based resources to providers, families and religious leaders across the United States and in other countries. We are currently implementing FAP’s family support model in collaboration with several agencies and communities around the country.