Adolescents and young adults face numerous challenges as they navigate their teenage years. Many LGBTQ+ and Black and Latinx youth face systemic barriers such as discrimination or isolation in their schools and/or community. At the same time, numerous young people also report a lack of access to youth-friendly resources and accurate age- and developmentally-appropriate health resources and information. As youth navigate adolescence, they often want and need guidance and support that considers their specific needs, as well as allies who will advocate for them to learn, flourish, and grow in their lives and communities.
Research has also shown the benefits of increasing inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth, such as lower rates of depression, better grades and higher rates of attendance in higher education. LGBTQ+ youth without access to inclusive environments were nearly twice as likely to report having “no plans to pursue post-secondary education,” were almost three times as likely to miss school, and had measurable impacts on self-esteem, levels of depression, and sense of school belonging.
What Lurie Children’s is doing to address it
By talking with adolescents and young adults throughout Chicago and working in communities with partners at schools, community organizations, and local businesses, Lurie Children’s has developed multi-faceted programs to support young people where they are and to intervene when they need help. Lurie Children’s Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine provides a range of Community Programs & Initiatives that are offered in communities where they can make a difference to help youth achieve positive results.
Our Sexuality Education program supports students, parent/guardians, and school staff by facilitating thoughtful, culturally responsive and LGBTQ+ inclusive conversations related to sexual health. For youth, our staff supports conversations and educational sessions related to relationships, social emotional development, and their bodies. We support parents/care-givers in understanding ways to engage youth in conversations related to sexual health. For school staff, we model ways that they can facilitate inclusive and engaging sexual health education for their students.
Our Division of Adolescent Medicine staff provides LGBTQ+ inclusion trainings and education that give an overview of how to create inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals. These trainings build the capacity of educators, school administrators, and community and family members to support LGBTQ+ young people across and to implement inclusive and affirming climates where everyone can learn and thrive.
The TransMentor Program pairs transgender, non-binary, gender expansive and gender questioning youth aged 12-20 years with trans and gender expansive adults. Transgender and gender expansive youth often lack adult role models who share their identity, yet research has shown that such adults with shared identities can improve the quality of the lives and relationships of trans and non-binary young people. TransMentor strives to bridge that gap and provide youth with the individualized support they need.
Lurie Children’s Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine provides free and confidential HIV/STI screening, responsive safer sex counseling and linkages to care and supportive services, including substance use prevention and treatment. Services are provided onsite, in community spaces and via Lurie Children’s Mobile Health Program. Lurie Children’s Connect for Youth (C4Y), a citywide, trauma-informed collaboration with Haymarket Center, integrates substance use and HIV prevention strategy for high-risk Black and Latinx youth.
Between 2018 and 2020, over 375 hours of sexual health education was provided to more than 3,195 students, 478 teachers and education professions and 127 parents
Between 2013 and 2020, over 550 trainings on inclusive environments, gender identity and other topics to more than 6,000 educators, medical staff and community partners
Between 2012 and 2020, Adolescent Medicine has provided over 2,500 HIV screenings and over 1,400 STI screenings for marginalized youth and distributed over 10,000 condoms
The TransMentor Program currently runs two successful cohorts, with 14 matched pairs of mentors and mentees