Supporting LGBTQI+ children and youth

Article by Sara Lulic, Psychologist at Brave Phone

Last year, Brave Phone (Hrabri telefon) joined Child Helpline International’s WeListen project, which involves European child helplines, by participating in the first of three “Communities of Practice”. The basic idea of these communities of practice is to share experiences related to our work with other helplines and organisations. In the case of this Community of Practice, we focused on our work with LGBTQI+ children and young people, and how to further establish child helplines as a key support and information mechanism for LGBTQI+ children and young people.

After a kick-off meeting in Amsterdam, we took part in monthly online meetings with other community of practice members to discuss the difficulties, challenges, plans and opportunities we’re facing in our daily work with LGBTQI+ children and young people. One of the most important first steps an organisation needs to undertake is to provide detailed, quality training for the counsellors and volunteers who’ll be responding, either through child helpline counselling work, through e-counselling, or through helplines for parents of LGBTQI+ children and young people.

In January, Brave Phone’s coordination team organised a training for volunteers, which was led by a member of the organisation Rainbow Families Croatia, whose aim is to advocate for LGBTQI+ families and parental rights, and to support LGBTQI+ parents and their children – by informing, educating, actively advocating and participating in the process of change as well as by encouraging all social groups to review the current situation and participate in the changes. Rainbow Families Croatia has also been involved in creating and publishing “My Rainbow Family“, a picture book for pre-school children that aims to strengthen the social integration of children with same-sex parents and to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.

Our first training on LGBTQI+

As this was the first training for Brave Phone volunteers on this topic, it was important they got information about the relevant legal issues in Croatia, about LGBTQI+ terminology, psychological aspects of coming out (important not only for those children and young people who are calling the helpline, but also when counselling parents whose children are coming out.

Brave phone regularly deals with children and young people who are facing a dilemma about their sexual orientation and/or identity, or are the subject of humiliation and abuse from peers or parents, or most importantly who just want information about their rights and to get some support. Our helpline for parents brings us into contact with mothers and fathers who don’t know how to deal with their child coming out, and sometimes do not approve of their child’s choices. So, the topics covered in this training provided a firm base for all further trainings relating to this topic.

We support children, young people and parents

Our volunteers have the opportunity each month to write about topics they’re encountering in their own counseling calls, and this gives them the possibility to educate others. As LGBTQI+ children and young people are increasingly using our services, so the need for volunteers to understand the subject increases. This being the case, a volunteer recently wrote about “LGBT Parenthood”. Another monthly topic looked at “Coming Out”. This is useful to all our counsellors, as these monthly topics – which can also be accessed while taking a helpline call – provide some of the theoretical knowledge and guidelines for their counselling and conversations with the children, young people and parents using our helplines and other services.

We’re happy to report that our volunteers have expressed great satisfaction with the trainings, and with what they have learned. The next step for Brave Phone is to work towards more specific data collection, because we consider it important to have separate categories associated with this topic so that we can keep statistical information about calls on helplines, and track trends or occurrences, relating to LGBTQI+ issues.

Next step is data collection on LGBTQI+

Participation in projects such as Child Helpline International’s Community of Practice, and sharing our experiences with childrens’ organisations around the world, is of utmost importance. It offers the ability to share material and knowledge, and to learn from each other, thereby saving all of us precious time, especially when we’re so often faced with such limited resources.

 

 

 

This project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme (2014-2020).