US

LBQ girls and women of color overrepresented in child welfare and criminalization systems

A disproportionate amount of LBQ girls are in the foster care system, and the number of Black girls in custody is twice as many as the general population. In addition, a significant percentage of LBQ women had been moved to different placements as children due to their sexual orientation.

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A new review of studies by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ) girls, particularly girls of color, are overrepresented in foster care and the carceral system. The proportion of Black and American Indian LBQ girls in foster care is four times higher than in the general population. 

Using data from multiple studies, researchers examined the disproportional impact of the foster care and criminalization systems on LBQ girls and women. Results show that there is 2.5 times the proportion of LBQ girls in custody as there are in the general population (40% vs 16%, respectively). In addition, one-third of incarcerated women are LBQ (33%), which is 10 times the proportion of women who identify as LBQ in the U.S. population. 

In addition, the majority of system-involved LBQ girls and women are racial minorities. An estimated 89% of LBQ girls in foster care and 61% of LBQ incarcerated women are people of color. 

“The youth detention and foster care data showing overrepresentation of LBQ girls of color, along with high rates of overincarceration among LBQ women, indicate a persistent impact of youth criminalization,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “More research and policy attention should focus on the long-term consequences of youth dual-system involvement and its role in the foster care-to-prison pipeline among sexual and racial minority girls.” 

 Key Findings

  • Overall, there are equal proportions of girls in foster care (48%) as there are in the general U.S. population (49%). 
  • There are 1.4 times more LBQ girls in foster care (13%) than in the general population of girls (10%). 
  • Among LBQ girls, there are twice as many girls of color in foster care as there are in the general population (89% vs 43%, respectively). 
  • There are 2.5 times as many LBQ girls who are in custody as there are in the general population of girls (40% vs 16%).
  • Among LBQ girls, there are twice as many Black girls in custody as there are in the general population (34% vs 17%).
  • There are 10 times as many LBQ women who are incarcerated as there are in the general population of women (33% vs 3%). 
  • While 39% of the general population of LBQ women are people of color, 61% of incarcerated LBQ women are people of color. 
  • Among LBQ women who had been in foster care as a child, 40% had been moved to different placements because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

 Read the report 

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