Learn more about the lessons that Providing Unbiased Services for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Youth Project has learned and the challenges it has faced.
One challenge that the collaboration faces is a lack of data and information on LGBTQ youth, specifically gender-nonconforming youth and youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. This is a problem in Oregon and the nation as a whole. While there are some data showing that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the homeless population, data about overrepresentation in other systems are not as clearly established. One reason for the lack of data on this population is that youth often don’t feel safe disclosing their sexual or gender preference. In addition, when data are available, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth are often lumped together as one category therefore not capturing the distinct experiences of each population. For example, as many out-of-home placements are segregated by sex, it can create unique challenges for gender non-conforming youth.
Information is slowly becoming more available, but it is still heavily reliant on anecdotal information or case studies rather than large-scale data collection and analysis. The lack of data and information on this population of youth both at the national and local level makes it difficult to show that
- more efforts and funding needs to be targeted at this population;
- action should be taken to help eliminate the disproportionate representation of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice, homeless, and child welfare populations; and
- efforts need to be taken to ensure that LGBTQ youth experience a safe and supportive environment.
The collaboration has faced a number of reorganizational challenges in recent years. Multnomah County Juvenile Justice recently underwent reorganization and a shift in its leadership due to budget cuts. While the previous director was a key advocate for the collaboration, making the training mandatory for all staff, new leadership has a different background, approach, and priorities. Another shift in the collaboration’s structure occurred when the executive director of SMYRC moved out of state and SMYRC merged with another organization—the Q Center, a community center supporting all LGBTQ people, not just youth. SMYRC developed and delivered part of the training, so their organization changes raised questions of who would provide that piece of the training going forward though the collaboration hopes that SMYRC will continue to be a training partner. As some of the partner organizations were in flux, the collaboration recognized that while it is important to ensure its presence is still felt, it is also important to allow the partner organizations to stabilize and reestablish buy-in prior to trying to expand their efforts and make large demands of the partner organizations.
The collaboration was able to secure initial funding for trainings through a grant with the United Way, but it continues to struggle to find additional funds to expand and sustain its efforts. The Equity Foundation, as a partner in the collaboration, has been able to provide some funding to sustain the work of the collaboration, but securing additional funding and deciding which partner should be the key applicant continues to be difficult.
As Oregon is a large state with distinct cities and rural areas, the collaboration recognized it would be important to work with local communities, rather than imposing its views and values on communities across the state in a top-down manner. As it plans to expand the trainings to audiences throughout the state, the collaboration is cognizant of the importance of establishing local buy-in, developing local advocates, and generating local partners to support the work of the collaboration.