Preparing Social Workers for Helping LGBT Community

In the field of Human Services is a broadly defined term, which the goals are meeting human needs by the use of knowledge base, focusing on ways of prevention as well as solving life problems, and maintaining a commitment to improving the overall quality of life of individuals. The profession of Human Services is one that promotes advanced service by addressing not only the quality of firsthand services, but also by seeking to improve accessibility, accountability, and coordination among the professionals and agencies in service delivery.

A person’s sexual orientation refers to who the person is attracted to and form relationships with. Everyone’s sexual orientation is a personal preference and it is up to the individual to decide how they want to define themselves. Over time this can change for some people. Sexual orientations include people who are lesbian, gay men, and bisexual(Amnesty International, 2018).

In the LGBT community, the people who consider themselves, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, have been struggling for years to get equal rights as people who consider themselves to be heterosexual.

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Even though our society is having a hard time accepting people for who they are, there is still a stigma surrounding the LGBT community. Because of the harsh stigma and hate against the LGBT community, it makes it hard for them to have a voice for themselves. As social workers or any kind of human service professional, it is our job as professionals to help them find their voices again and make them comfortable with being who they are.

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Homosexuality has been around and recorded for a very long time. Even though today, there is more leeway about homosexuality., this does not mean that society has approved of the LGBT community, presently or historically. Even in the United States, we still see the LGBT community terrorized almost every day. Up until the 1970s, it was against the law to identify as LGBT. If you were caught often times you were institutionalized, and some were even found to be lobotomized. One doctor famous for performing lobotomies on the LGBT was named Dr. Walter J. Freeman. He became famous for his perfection of the “Ice Pick Lobotomy,” and it is believed that out of his 4,000 patients he performed these lobotomies on, 40 percent were homosexuals.

Although, the terror does not stop there, even in America today kids who are bullied are 2.6 times more likely to report having clinical levels of depression, 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, and 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical attention. They are also two times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease and to report risk for HIV infection. This means that bullying leads to an even more serious epidemic because more than 34,000 people are actually successful in taking their lives every year. This makes suicide the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. Every 30-seconds someone attempts to take their own life. Bullying is not just experienced in public either; it is very common for homosexual teenagers to experience bullying within their families as well. “About four-in-ten (39 percent) people who identify as LGBT say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or a close friend because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 30 percent say they have been physically attacked or threatened. 29 percent say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship. 21 percent say they have been treated unfairly by an employer. The National Coalition reported that “20 percent of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10 percent LGBT,” and “LGBT are twice as likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12. LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7 percent of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4 percent of heterosexual homeless youth and LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth. LGBT homeless youth are also 62 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers”. As if that alone doesn’t make it harder for those seeking stability: in 28 of the 50 states you may still be discriminated against for your sexual identity. The LGBT community must not live in fear of just physical violence or rejection, but homicide as well. In just the last five years there have been 102 cases of homicide with the victim identifying as transgender. 2017 has seen 25 cases of homicide against transgender individuals so far, making it the highest annual average of transgender homicide on record.

It is very important to know that when serving these communities, the biggest struggle for those who identify as part of the LGBT community now is that they are not being treated with respect or equality so just like anyone else it is important to treat them with such.

As social workers, we should remember is that we should engage and encourage diversity and different cultures in the workplace. When working with LGBT individuals, help them find what their strengths are and to help them with their struggles with their own identities. The second value that is important to know is that we, as social workers, should also make it a practice to strive for social institutions to be more humane and responsive to human needs. Members of the LGBT community are discriminated against at work because f who they are, and it is our job to help prevent that from happening. Whether it is talking to human resources at your company and helping them set up some better hiring boundaries, or assisting members of the LGBT community to find careers and jobs where they won’t have to deal with that fear of workplace harassment or rejection. If better boundaries are met then we may be able to see a major decrease in the homelessness rates and an increase in diversity in the workplace. This also comes down to the third value of committing ourselves as social workers to assisting clients to obtain additional resources. This can range from finding them a therapist to helping perform talk therapy, to finding them respectable housing or careers. These values help give us our own parameters when identifying our client’s specific problems and needs.

The LGBT community needs a voice, and as social workers, it is our job to help aid them in finding their voices. We do that by becoming their voices or helping members of the community find their own voice and help amplify that voice. With so many obstacles it has been a difficult journey fighting for their voices, but with our help as social workers, they may be able to defeat the rejection and bullying done by family, peers, and society. It may, additionally, result in increased workplace equality and diversity.

In many other countries, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) means living with discrimination on a daily basis. This discrimination could be based on your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics From name-calling and bullying to being denied a job or appropriate healthcare, the range of unequal treatment faced is extensive and damaging. It can also be life-threatening. In all too many cases, LGBT people are harassed in the streets, beaten up, and sometimes killed, simply because of who they are. A spate of violence against trans people has claimed the lives of at least 325 individuals between October 2016 and September 2017.

When it comes to children who identify as LGBT, it can be very hard for them to deal with the pressure of not being able to come out the closet. Within the foster care system, social services providers have set goal of making sure children are placed in a safe environment that is least restrictive to their development. When it comes to children of different races, ethnicity, and gender, caseworkers must make sure that children’s caregivers can match their specific needs. This can often be a task with lack of foster homes, the distance between homes and resources, the difference in the culture surrounding a child, and many other issues within personal communities. When it comes to children of the LGBT community, this becomes a bigger task.

The LGBT community is still something that doesn’t get very much attention. For example, in the state of Illinois, the policies in the Department of Children and Family Services address LGBT children, although, it is not something that is well known to most workers and there is still a major lack in literature, policies, training, and advocacy for those children. While policies directly protect them against discrimination, the fragility of those identities in children is not necessarily taking into account. This is the same for the policies in most states across the U.S. It is a phenomenon that is still not fully discovered.

Young children usually start to question their sexual identities as early as the age of 5 years old. Most children won’t come out until a much later time in their life, but they will begin to face a struggle, of trying to understand the difference between what they feel inside, and what the world around them is showing to them.

One of the main issues with sexuality is that youths get discriminated against all the time. Some of the comments that LGBT youths are faced with are as follows: “I hate gays. They should be banned from this country;” “Get away from me, you faggot. I can’t stand the sight of you;” “These queers make my stomach turn.” Those are only a few of the biased statements that LBGT youths are faced within society. A lot of people say the word “faggot” which is often used by anti-gay individuals to terrorize LGBT youths. Words such as “faggot” or “gay” are sometimes used in a negative sense to express something that seems too disgusting or uncool to certain people When that occurs, it shows an even greater sign of discrimination against the LGBT youths. These hurtful words are not only used in the real world but also in movies and TV shows which makes it harder for LGBT youths to deal with. In addition to the discrimination from society and their peers, LGBT youths also endure discrimination from homes/families and usually schools.

Today's statistics reports that one-half of LGBT youths are neglected by their parents because of their sexual preference and approximately a quarter of LGBT youths are mandated to leave their homes. Rejected LGBT youths generally do not learn how to build a relationship with peers or families. As a result, it creates a state of loneliness and isolation for them. Some LGBT youths are both verbally and physically abused by parents. In addition to that, about 40% of youths that are homeless are classified as LGBT youths. This shows 27% of male teenagers who classified themselves as gay or bisexual left home due to quarrels with family members over their sexuality. Needless to say, parents and families play a big part in discrimination against LGBT youths and the effects that it has on them. Nevertheless, it appears that the majority of the discrimination against LGBT youths comes from the schools that they attend to.

Another problem is that sexual education in schools does not address the possibility that not all children are going to be heterosexual. Puberty is a huge time in a child’s life where they begin to question themselves, and their emotions become heightened, and they feel less “child-like”. It is during this time that we must be active as parents, educators, and social service providers to make sure that children understand that it is okay to not be sure about who or what they like. This is something lacking in our education system. Often it is left up to the parents, but this leaves a lot of foster children to fall through the cracks. Children who do not end up in permanent placements or who get passed from home to home are left even more confused.

As social service providers, it is crucial that we are paying attention to a child that might be questioning themselves. Gender identity and sexuality is an extremely fragile thing. While we definitely want to make sure we are providing children with resources, we also want to ensure they don’t feel singled out or like they have a problem. Often times service providers might refer a child to counseling to deal with the emotions of questioning their identity, but it is crucial that providers leave that up to the child themselves.

Often children feel like something is wrong with them if they’re sent to counseling. Depending on the age of the child, this should not be something that is forced, rather encouraged and left open as an option for them. Furthermore, if a caseworker does not feel they have enough resources they should look up the policies within their state child welfare system.

Many caseworkers are not trained on the specific policies for the LGBT community, due to differing opinions of those who do the training. For example, in Illinois there is very little training that addresses how to work with LGBT children specifically, however, the state does have their own LGBT liaison. Many offices are unaware the state liaison exists, which is why it is crucial to do extra research when the possibility of having a child with these specific needs enters your caseload.

The biggest piece in working with children of the LGBT community is to make sure they are in a supportive, open-minded, and safe environment. This means making sure the caseworker, foster parents, and those working with the child, have no personal beliefs that would interfere with the child thriving in their environment with their personal sexuality. Some private agencies have religious affiliations which could be a hindrance to some children. Open-mindedness and a willingness to learn are the key factors in looking for an LGBT placement. Children of the trans community will need a large amount of support and advocacy and a lot of that will need to come from a caregiver, due to the emotional toll of day-to-day living.

Caseworkers and agency staff should still remain sensitive to the child’s specific needs and ensure their foster placement is supporting them. This does not mean children need to be in a home of homosexual couples or caregivers. While that certainly might help, it does not mean they cannot get what they need from other caregivers. It just comes down to making sure foster parents are trained to have the same open minds as social service providers and that children are matched to the best, most supportive homes.

The last thing to know about this is that children have the right to choose when they “come out” to others. Even if a worker suspects something, they should always seek specific permission from the child, before addressing anything with sexuality. This includes counseling, LGBT advocacy, foster placements, support groups, service planning with specific tasks on LGBT, life skills training with specific LGBT elements, etc. It is never a service provider’s job to out a child. Unless that child is in specific danger, their sexuality should remain a private matter.

Children have a right to privacy and they have a right to support. As service providers, we must always remain sensitive to our client’s needs, and if a child is suspected to have some questions, workers should be very careful about how they proceed. The last thing anyone wants to do is traumatize a child more, by simply being unaware of the proper procedures. It is also good to remember that personal opinions and religious beliefs should have no bearing on how a child is addressed. Children are human beings and deserve the same care and respect, no matter their gender, race, religious belief, or sexuality.

Reference List

  1. “LGBTI Rights.” Early Marriage and Harassment of Syrian Refugee Women and Girls in Jordan,
  3. Stecker, S. (2017, December 05). Social Workers and The LGBT Community. Retrieved from
  5. (n.d.). Social Good, Social Work, and Social Justice - Social Work Helper. Social Working the LGBT Child - Social Work Helper. Retrieved from
  7. (n.d.). Home. What is Human Services?. Retrieved from
  9. (n.d.). Home — York College / CUNY. How Are LGBT Youths Affected by Discrimination and What Can Schools Do to Help? — York College / CUNY. Retrieved from
Cite this page

Preparing Social Workers for Helping LGBT Community. (2021, Mar 03). Retrieved from

Preparing Social Workers for Helping LGBT Community
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