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LGBT-parented families and behavioral healthcare

December 30, 2012
by Michael Shelton
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Politics and personal bias often lead to inadequate treatment

Throughout 2011 and 2012 I interviewed families headed by LGBT parents in preparation for the book Family Pride: What LGBT Families Should Know About Navigating Home, School, and Safety in Their Neighborhoods (Beacon Pres: 2013).  Access to behavioral health care was a recurrent concern. To begin though I need to present some surprising demographics regarding these families.

·      Twelve to twenty percent of LGBT couples are raising children; other estimates are that one third to one half of lesbian and bisexual women and approximately twenty percent of gay and bisexual men have a child.[i]

·      Same-sex parents in the U.S. have fewer financial resources to support their children than married opposite-sex parents. The median household income of same-sex couples with children is 23% lower than that of opposite-sex married parents.[ii]  Poverty rates increase when same-sex parents live in rural areas and/or are people of color.[iii]  

·      Same-sex couples of color are more likely than their white counterparts to be raising children.  As one example, a 2007 study by the Our Family Coalition found that in California more than half of all African American, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Latino/a same-gender couples between the ages of 25-55 years were raising children of their own (43%, 45%, and 62%, respectively), while only 18% of white same-gender couples were raising children.[iv]

·      Gay men and lesbians raising children are more likely to be living in southern and/or rural states.[v]

We also know that the behavioral healthcare needs of LGBT families are not adequately being met. After all, Lambda Legal’s 2010 release “When Health Care Isn’t Caring: Lambda Legal’s Survey of Discrimination Against LGBT People and People with HIV” found that 56 percent of respondents had experienced some form of mistreatment when accessing services and that its report likely understated the barriers to health care experienced by LGBT people.[vi] 

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