Setting the organizational context

LGBT2SQ-affirming and inclusive services cannot be dependent solely on individuals working in child welfare organizations or on those who identify as LGBT2SQ. The consistent use of affirming practices throughout the organization is dependent upon the demonstrated commitment and accountability of senior management and Boards of Directors to integrating LGBT2SQ-affirming practices and policies at all levels of their organization.

Child welfare leaders can create an organizational culture that promotes equality by clearly establishing an environment that is inclusive of, and values, diversity. LGBT2SQ-affirming and inclusive organizations take action on the following:

  • organizational environments and physical spaces;
  • formal policies;
  • open communication and dialogue; and
  • training.

Creating affirming environments and physical spaces

All children and youth benefit from positive spaces in which gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and all forms of diversity are supported, made welcome, and promoted in visible ways. It is important to have visible cues in the environment where LGBT2SQ children and youth can see themselves reflected.

Positive spaces reflect a commitment to welcome and include all members of the community and to create safe and affirming environments that are free of discrimination and harassment for all peoplefootnote 88.

There are different ways to create a positive and affirming organizational environment:

  • Display LGBT2SQ posters, a rainbow flag, a trans flag and other LGBT2SQ identity flags, positive space stickers, and other pro-LGBT2SQ symbols that are representative of diverse LGBT2SQ communities. Note that positive space indicators should only be used when backed by training.
  • Provide easy access (i.e., in common areas) to resources and information directed to LGBT2SQ children and youth, including resources specific to the experiences and needs of Two-Spirit, Indigenous, Black and racialized LGBT2SQ children and youth, and LGBT2SQ children and youth with disabilities.
  • Ensure access to washrooms, change rooms or other gendered spaces is based on a person’s lived identity—how they choose to identify and present themselves to the world.
  • Celebrate diversity—recognize LGBT2SQ specific holidays and events such as PRIDE and allocate resources for these activities.
  • Integrate topics about diversity, equity, and social justice into existing training or in the development of new training.
  • Clearly state the organization’s commitment to LGBT2SQ inclusivity on the organization’s website and printed materials.

Positive space brings visibility and support to LGBT2SQ children, youth, and families involved with the child welfare system. Creating a positive space is about intentionally including positive markers and challenging the patterns of silence that continue to marginalize LGBT2SQ people, even in environments with anti-discriminatory and inclusive policiesfootnote 89.

Organizational policies

Formal policies that support fair treatment and opportunity in services and practices, and that clearly set out the organization’s values, are the foundation of creating an inclusive organization.

Clear expectations can be included in the following footnote 90(note that sample policies are contained in Appendix C of the guide):

  1. Organization's mission, vision, and values statements that communicate a commitment to non-discriminatory, anti-oppressive, and LGBT2SQ-affirming policies and practices.
  2. Policies or bylaws related to board composition and recruitment of families, caregivers, and volunteers that communicate that the organization expects itself to be reflective of all populations served, including LGBT2SQ communities.
  3. Policies related to ongoing training for all staff, caregivers, and volunteers on LGBT2SQ-affirming and inclusive services and organizational practices.
  4. Client/Service non-discrimination policy that prohibits service-related discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (e.g., policy that LGBT2SQ children and youth receive care according to their self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and preferred gender expression).
  5. Employment non-discrimination policy that clearly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in human resource practices, and requires recruitment, retention, and advancement of a diverse workforce that reflects the community, including diverse gender /sexual identities/expressions.
  6. Harassment and complaint procedures that are equipped to address potential discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Examples of other policy areas include those related to organizational partnerships and referral relationships, client and community feedback, and anti-oppression training.

Creating affirmative organizational policies

The toolkit is available at:

A culture of open communication

A culture of open communication allows organizations to identify and address challenges that exist for LGBT2SQ children and youth and collectively create solutions to address them. Everyone involved in the child welfare system should be encouraged to bring forward concerns and to speak openly without fear of reprisal about discrimination that is taking place within their organization.

LGBT2SQ children and youth, in particular, can offer insight into how well the child welfare system and individual services are meeting their needs, and how they can be improved. Children and youth should have opportunities to talk about their experiences knowing that it is safe to do so, to be believed when they do, and to see positive results when they speak up.

Child welfare leaders should strive to actively create an organizational culture that is committed to ongoing learning and training opportunities, and feedback from openly listening to critiques of current practices, and being non-judgmental.

Organizations can take a number of steps to facilitate feedback from workers, caregivers, children and youth, which include drop boxes for comments, anonymous surveys, and regular informal meetings where everyone in the organization is welcomed and encouraged to participate. Emphasis on confidentiality and anonymity, and the need to consider the dynamics of power imbalances when designing these feedback processes will help contribute to a willingness to openly participate.


Child protection workers, families, caregivers, and youth from across Ontario have identified the need for training throughout the child welfare system on providing LGBT2SQ-affirming and inclusive services and organizations.

Research suggests that comprehensive LGBT2SQspecific training for board members, staff, volunteers, families, and caregivers is a best practice to better serve LGBT2SQ children and youth. To sustain the benefits of training, individuals should also be made aware of resources they can access in their day-today work with respect to serving LGBT2SQ children and youth.

In 2015, only 10% of society staff surveyed had received training on how to support families struggling to accept their LGBT2SQ child or youth.

MCYS Survey

Training that is multi-levelled (from introductory to advanced), ongoing, inclusive of LGBT2SQ children and youth voices, and integrated into an organization’s general training requirements, is most effective. Some child welfare leaders have also emphasized the need for mandatory LGBT2SQ training. Regular evaluation and updating of training is also essential.

Some of the topics that may be addressed in training include:

  • existing non-discrimination and human rights laws;
  • supporting resiliency in LGBT2SQ children and youth;
  • acknowledging the intersectionality that exists within LGBT2SQ communities;
  • understanding unique risks and challenges faced by LGBT2SQ children and youth;
  • managing confidential information, including how to avoid "outing a child or youth;"
  • finding safe, respectful, and affirming placements for LGBT2SQ children and youth;
  • how to be an ally to the LGBT2SQ community;
  • how to talk about gender identity and sexual orientation;
  • how to create safe and welcoming spaces;
  • how to address homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia;
  • how to support transgender and gender diverse children and youth;
  • relevant terms, definitions and acronyms; and
  • myths and misconceptions about LGBT2SQ children and youth.

Child welfare organizations can engage with community partners and organizations to provide outside training and expertise on LGBT2SQ children and youth (e.g., PFLAG, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Rainbow Health Ontario). They can also utilize existing training, such as Out and Proudfootnote 91, designed by the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto for the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, to increase the capacity of child welfare organizations to serve LGBT2SQ children and youth. While some agencies will not have such organizations in their communities, they can make use of online and social network supports such as those available at: The site offers community links to counsellors who serve LGBT2SQ newcomers, toolkit manuals, and referrals which assist in making any agency a positive space.

Unless workers are trained to support the youth, address him/her/them with respect, make the environment LGBT2SQ positive, they will not be successful in connecting and addressing the youth's needs.

CAS Staff