Although there is an increasing amount of information about the risks and challenges facing LGB youth (with very little information about transgender youth), we know little 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 have been no previous studies of how families affect their LGBT children’s risk and resiliency. Prior to this study, little information was available to show how families respond to an adolescent's coming out and how family and caregiver reactions affect adolescent health, mental health and development for LGBT young people.
Attention to family reactions is critical since increasingly, youth are coming out at younger ages which significantly increases risk for victimization and abuse 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 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 major study of the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
The project is designed to: 1) study parents’, families' and caregivers’ reactions and adjustment to an adolescent's coming out and LGBT identity; 2) develop training and assessment materials for health, mental health, and school-based providers, child welfare, juvenile justice, family service workers and community service providers on working with LGBT youth and families; 3) develop resources to strengthen families to support LGBT children and adolescents; and 4) develop a new model of family-related care to improve health and mental health outcomes for LGBT adolescents. Findings will be used to inform policy and practice and to change the way that systems of care address the needs of LGBT adolescents.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with key community groups and representatives from community organizations that work with youth in schools, health care settings and families, including PFLAG, the GSA Network and the Adolescent Health Working Group.
FAP is collaborating with Child and Adolescent Services at San Francisco General Hospital/UCSF, and with community providers to develop a new family-related model of prevention and care, based on our research. This new family-related approach will help ethnically diverse families decrease rejection and increase support to decrease their LGBT children's risk and promote their well-being. Once developed, these new research-based family interventions will be disseminated to providers and groups across the U.S. and to groups we are working with in other countries.