By Rena Malai
NASW’s Louisiana Chapter has launched a training initiative to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth across the state.
The program — which is funded by the Tides Foundation — is part of a “train the trainer” initiative that NASW developed after the NASW Foundation and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund teamed up in 2008 to improve the care and treatment of LGBTQ youth in the foster care system.
The training helps social workers dissolve any prior stigma or preconceived notions surrounding LGBTQ youth, so that the population can receive the help they need without judgment or misunderstanding, NASW Foundation Director Robert Arnold said.
“Many LGBTQ youth in the foster care system are there because they’ve run away from home,” he said. “They didn’t feel like their families or communities accepted or understood them, or they were bullied. It’s important for social workers to understand the unique needs of LGBTQ youth so they can help them.”
Carmen Weisner, executive director of NASW-Louisiana, said the chapter is working with several entities in the state — including the Louisiana Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, and the Court Improvement Project within the state Supreme Court — to get the training initiative out to as many people as they can across varied demographics. The training targets social workers and others who currently work or may work with LGBTQ youth in the custody of the state, or at risk of placement in the foster care system.
“This population of youth in out-of-home care are particularly vulnerable to physical or emotional abuse, depression, rape, unethical ‘conversion therapies,’ prostitution, substance abuse and suicide,” Weisner said. “Because of these reasons, NASW and Lambda Legal feel it is imperative to train professionals to be responsive to the needs of LGBTQ youth.”
The chapter effort to spread the initiative has helped train about 800 people so far in Louisiana, Weisner said, and the number is rising as the training continues to be part of the collaborative’s focus.
“Anytime anything touches on LGBT policy, we find that there is a lot of misinformation about the issue,” she said. “In Louisiana, social work is the largest behavioral health profession in the state. LGBT youth are really at risk; it’s important to be culturally competent in these areas.”
From the September 2013 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.