The findings and research method employed by fellows at the Williams Institute, based at the University of California Los Angeles, may help other cities conduct similar research on an issue that L.A. officials say is largely overlooked.
"People refer to it as the 'dirty little secret' that there are so many LGBTQ kids in foster care," Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the Times."But nobody's been able to document it."
The Williams Institute study also found that LGBT adoptees experienced more foster placements, were more likely to live in a group home, and were hospitalized for emotional reasons three times more often than peers.
Despite overrepresentation in state systems — comprising an estimated averaging 19 percent of Los Angeles' foster care population — LGBT youth remain largely "invisible," according to the study's authors.
Social workers often wait for children to initiate discussions about their own sexuality or gender identity because they are unsure of how to protect the child's privacy, notes the Times. Furthermore, many LGBT youth do not feel safe coming out to their foster parents.
In addition, the study notes, 83 percent of adoptees in the Los Angeles foster care system are black or Latino. Youth of color who are also LGBT face added discrimination, researchers said.