New SAMSHA Guide Helps Support LGBT Kids

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Sunday Mar 9, 2014

In its continuing effort to foster the well-being of LGBT kids, the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at SF State University has developed "Helping Families to Support their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Children." The critical new practitioner's resource guide was created in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, and written by Dr. Caitlin Ryan, FAP's Director. It is based on current research and more than a decade of family intervention work conducted by Ryan and her team.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with SAMSHA to disseminate our research-based family intervention strategies to build healthy futures for LGBT youth," said Dr. Ryan. "Now that research shows the critical role of families in promoting both risk and well-being for their LGBT children, it's essential to ensure that practitioners in all settings know how to engage and help families to support their LGBT children."

The guide is designed to help health, mental health and social service practitioners implement best practices in family-focused prevention and care for LGBT youth. This is the first resource guide published by a government agency to provide core principles and research-based approaches to engage and help families to support their LGBT children.

One of the primary barriers in introducing a new research-based family model of care is a decades-long perception that practitioners need to protect LGBT adolescents from families who have been seen as rejecting or as not supporting their LGBT children. Research has linked family rejection with serious health problems, and family acceptance as a protective factor that helps protect against risk and promote well-being for LGBT youth.

Ryan and her team have found that families who are seen as rejecting are typically motivated by trying to protect their LGBT children from harm, to help them fit in, to be accepted by others and to keep their families together.

Understanding the motives, values and experiences of parents, families and caregivers of LGBT adolescents is an important first step in implementing a family support approach to decrease family rejection and increase acceptance and support to decrease high levels of homelessness, suicidality, placement in custodial care, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. The new SAMHSA resource guide presents core strategies for building rapport and helping families to become allies to decrease their LGBT children's risk and to promote their well-being.

This publication was initiated as part of SAMHA's ongoing commitment to educate practitioners who work in multiple practice settings from primary care, to schools and services for homeless youth on providing quality care for LGBT adolescents in the context of their families.

The guide is available free of charge on SAMHSA's website at

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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