Understanding, respect and a home.
While it may seem that progress is being made in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights here in Massachusetts, we cannot ignore that GLBT youth face myriad forms of homophobia. The statistics are alarming — the 2003 Massachusetts Department of Education Youth Risk Behavior Survey concludes that 19% of GLB youth have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school compared to 6% of other students. 16% skipped school because they felt unsafe compared to 4% of other students. 40% attempted suicide.
Significant numbers of GLBT youth face rejection and abuse from parents and relatives. According to the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, more than one quarter are forced to leave home due to conflict over sexual orientation. Many are placed in programs or foster homes unable to cope with the unique challenges faced by these young people.
The lack of safe and supportive services is a critical issue that needs to be addressed by state governments and social service agencies. The Home for Little Wanderers, one of the nation’s oldest and largest child service agencies, has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to providing services to GLBT clients.
Three years ago, The Home opened Waltham House, a group home for GLBT adolescents. Residents are provided with support in secondary school education, vocational training, life skills, as well as clinical services and health education.
More recently, The Home has taken the lead and received national attention for training social service providers about identity development, risk factors and effective strategies for working with GLBT young people. The Home’s trainers have educated nearly 2,000 social workers, lawyers, case managers, administrators, policy makers, and family stabilization units.
At Waltham House we say we will be successful when we put ourselves out of business. Accomplishing this means developing more GLBT programming, assisting human service agencies by providing staff training, and educating people about the harmful effects of homophobia and the havoc it can wreak on the lives of young people.
We encourage academic institutions that offer psychology, sociology, education, and criminal justice degrees to provide GLBT identity and development insights. Graduates will be better prepared to provide safe and supportive services to all their clients, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth — a deserving population that has been inadequately served.
Click here to learn more about Waltham House.