Good Practices to Support LGBTQI+ Children and Young People

As part of our WeListen project, Child Helpline International organised a Community of Practice in 2018 for our child helpline members in the EU. The main objective of this Community of Practice was to exchange knowledge on how child helplines can best support LGBTQI+ children and young people.

A Community of Practice is a form of peer-to-peer learning where participants “share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better…” The meetings were attended by representatives from our child helpline members (Malta), Child and Youth Phone (Finland), Hrabri Telefon (Croatia) and The Mix (UK), and from the LGBTQI+ organisations RFSL Ungdom, Single Step and IGLYO (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation). Together, we kick-started the process of developing good practices that child helplines can use to support LGBTQI+ children and young people.

These good practices are intended to be used as rough guidelines, or at the very least as food for thought, to inform the way child helplines work with LGBTQI+ children and young people. The good practices are distinguished by different levels: individual, organisational and policy. These are summarised below.

At individual level

It is important to not label or judge the child or young person. Instead, demonstrate active listening, respond to the emotions presented, acknowledge strengths, and provide positive reinforcement.

Together with the child or young person, a child helpline counsellor should:

  • explore existing social safety nets (family and friends);
  • be aware of any internalised homophobia; and
  • promote self-awareness, self-acceptance and resilience.

Internalised homophobia and oppression happens to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and even heterosexuals, who have learned and been taught that heterosexuality is the norm, and the “correct way to be”. Hearing and seeing negative depictions of LGBTQI+ people can lead us to internalise, or take in, these negative messages. For more information, please visit The Rainbow Project.

Whenever possible, the volunteer or counsellor should refer the child or young person to other relevant organisations who may be able to offer targeted support and guidance.

Child helplines can also educate the children and young people on the different ways that parents can respond when coming out as LGBTQI+, to prepare them for all possible scenarios.

At organisational level

As an organisation, there are a number of things that can be done to support LGBTQI+ children and young people. Becoming an LGBTQI+ ally is one, by raising awareness on LGBTQI+ issues within as well as outside the organisation, and generating advocacy messages to the public.

In addition, having an established partnership or cooperation with the police is vital and can save lives in emergency situations. In general, having partnerships or cooperative relationships with other service providers can be beneficial.

At policy level

Anti-discrimination legislation at national and regional levels must be in place in order for child helplines to effectively support LGBTQI+ children and young people. In combination with legislations, child helplines can strengthen support for this group by stating clearly what kind of support is available. The Mix, a UK-based organisation, is a good example of this.

Training other agencies or organisations is another way that helplines can use to support LGBTQI+ children and young people. For instance, teachers can be trained on how to inform children, as well as the public, about LGBTQI+ issues. For partner services and the police, helplines can provide non-discrimination training.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC 2014-2020). The content of this article represents only the views of the author and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.