The Family Acceptance Project® (FAP) is a research, intervention and education initiative that was established in 2002 by Caitlin Ryan, PhD and Rafael Diaz, PhD to prevent health risks and promote well-being for LGBTQ children and youth, with funding from the California Endowment, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a range of other funders. Dr. Ryan and her team conducted the first research on LGBTQ youth and families and developed the first evidence-informed family support model that was designed to be used in prevention, wellness and care to promote well-being and reduce health risks for LGBTQ and gender diverse children and youth across systems of care. FAP’s family support model provides an opportunity to prevent and ameliorate multiple negative outcomes that disproportionately impact LGBTQ young people with a single approach: family intervention and support.
A core finding from FAP’s research has been identifying and measuring more than 100 specific behaviors that parents, families and caregivers use to respond to their LGBTQ children. Half of these behaviors are rejecting and half are supportive and accepting. FAP’s research found that these specific family rejecting behaviors contribute to serious health risks, include suicidality, depression, illegal drug use and sexual health risks while family accepting behaviors help protect against risk and promote self-esteem and well-being. FAP’s research, family support model, intervention strategies and multilingual educational materials were developed through a participatory process with guidance from diverse families, LGBTQ youth and young adults.
Innovations Institute, in collaboration with the Family Acceptance Project, has launched an online resource to help LGBTQ youth and families find services and increase support for LGBTQ youth. This first of its kind website aims to help increase family acceptance of LGBTQ youth, community building, and well-being. The website includes a national searchable map of community support services that affirm LGBTQ young people, along with multilingual and multicultural evidence-based resources to increase family support for LGBTQ children and youth.
FAP has developed a series of research-based educational and assessment resources. These include:
Click on each of the topics below to learn more about Family Acceptance Project.
FAP’s family support model includes four components: an in-depth assessment of the parent’s / caregiver’s and children’s / youth’s experiences, including their cultural and religious experiences, and parental and family responses to the child’s LGBTQ identity and gender expression; an ongoing psychoeducation process that helps the parent change rejecting behaviors and increase supportive and affirming behaviors to decrease risk and increase connectedness and well-being; counseling and skill-building to address challenges to family functioning and support; and culturally relevant peer support to connect the parent / caregiver with a positive reference group of parents and families that support and affirm their LGBTQ children. FAP’s family support model uses a strengths-based and harm reduction framework to help parents, families, and caregivers to understand sexual orientation and gender identity as components of child development and teaches them how specific reactions to their LGBTQ child impact their child’s health risks and well-being. FAP practitioners help families to change rejecting behaviors that increase health risks and family conflict and learn to support and affirm their LGBTQ children. This includes teaching parents and caregivers how to advocate for their LGBTQ children and to model caring for themselves as adults. FAP continues to produce evidence-based practice publications and education and guidance materials for diverse families with LGBTQ children and youth that are multilingual and address the family’s cultural and religious needs.
FAP’s family support model was developed in community behavioral health settings with diverse LGBTQ children, youth, and families. FAP’s family support model was implemented in collaboration with the Ruth Ellis Center in Michigan with LGBTQ children, youth, and families in the foster care system. Families that completed FAP’s family support program showed positive gains in learning to support and affirm their LGBTQ children, and family relationships were significantly improved. In an initial assessment of FAP services at the Ruth Ellis Center, LGBTQ children of caregivers that had been investigated by Child Protective Services and who completed the FAP program remained in the home at 6 and 12 month follow up. Key components of FAP’s family support model have also been integrated into Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) as part of a year-long learning community sponsored by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network which found that LGBTQ youth experienced significant improvement in post-traumatic stress symptoms using this modified treatment model. Dr. Ryan has integrated core FAP components into TF-CBT’s treatment manual for LGBTQ children and youth.
A key element of FAP’s approach is helping parents and practitioners understand that family behaviors that reject and deny a child’s core identity are traumatic and, combined with other trauma experiences, can contribute to complex trauma. Like Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the family rejecting (and accepting behaviors) identified and measured in FAP’s research are predictive of health risks and screening for family rejecting behaviors can identify LGBTQ children and families in need of immediate support. Because family rejecting behaviors are embedded in cultural and religious beliefs and are transmitted intergenerationally, these behaviors have been the default reaction of families across cultural backgrounds. FAP’s family support approach is grounded in the family’s cultural and religious values which enables caregivers to understand the impact of their behaviors on their LGBTQ children – even when they believe that being gay or transgender is wrong.
FAP’s family support model was designed to be used across systems of care with site-based protocols. FAP’s intervention strategies and resources can be used in any setting for prevention, intervention and postvention to address multiple health risks, to reduce family conflict, to strengthen families and prevent removal from the home and to increase connectedness. This includes using FAP’s messaging, framing and family guidance materials as well as integrating FAP’s family support model into existing programs and services.
FAP’s family support model and resources are intended for use with diverse LGBTQ and gender diverse children youth and families in all practice settings – child welfare, juvenile justice and other out-of-home placements; behavioral health and social service agencies; primary care; prevention and education programs; school-based services and pastoral care. FAP’s resources and materials are also used by families themselves to increase support for their LGBTQ children.
The following trainings are currently available or in development:
For families, behavioral health, medical and social service providers, educators and school providers, community members and religious leaders and pastoral care providers: Basic FAP training on the critical role of families for LGBTQ children and youth, with guidance on using FAP’s messaging and family support approach to decrease rejection and to increase family support
For child welfare personnel: Training on providing FAP’s family services in child welfare agencies in collaboration with the Ruth Ellis Center Institute
For practitioners who have received core TF-CBT training: Training on implementing the FAP-TF-CBT integrated treatment model for trauma recovery with LGBTQ children and youth (in development)
To implement FAP FSM in your practice or within your organization, please email National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for LGBTQ2S Children and Youth in Foster Care at SOGIECenter@uconn.edu.