Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Elizabeth M. Z. Farmer

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Cramer

Third Advisor

Traci Wike

Fourth Advisor

Alex Wagaman

Fifth Advisor

Mary Beth Heller


Direct-care workers can provide an array of service types to children, adolescents, and their families in behavioral health treatment. They may also work in a variety of settings (e.g., group homes, inpatient units/hospitals, residential treatment, treatment foster care, day treatment, in-home treatment, etc.). Direct-care workers typically are involved in the supervision of youth and in the implementation of a treatment plan developed by the youth’s treatment team. For youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) and are receiving behavioral health services, such workers form a critical part of their therapeutic experience. However, little is known about these workers’ competencies related to working with LGBTQ youth. This study begins to fill that gap by developing and testing a measure that assessed LGBTQ cultural competencies related to behavioral health practice with youth and a measure that was relevant to the roles and responsibilities of direct-care (e.g., paraprofessional, front-line) workers.

In order for direct-care workers to use LGBTQ cultural competency in their practice, more understanding is needed about their current level of LGBTQ-related cultural competency. The LGBTQ Youth Cultural Competency scale (abbreviated as LGBTQY-CC) provides a means to measure those competencies. An exploratory factor analysis found that the new scale consists of one primary factor which represents knowledge, attitudes, skill, and awareness of LGBTQ cultural competency. Cronbach’s alpha, correlations with other measures for concurrent validity, and correlation with a measure of social desirability all resulted in evidence that the LGBTQY-CC has good validity.

Analyses examined how the new measure was related to constructs associated with training and competency in direct-care workers. Multiple regression analyses showed that higher levels of LGBTQ cultural competency (as measured by the LGBTQY-CC) were significantly related to age (younger), political ideology (more liberal), more social contact with LGBTQ individuals, and degree of religious belief about LGBTQ being a sin. A model including these factors explained 60% of the variance in LGBTQY-CC scores.

The LGBTQY-CC was created with the long-term goal of creating training interventions for direct-care workers to improve their practice with LGBTQ youth. The measure could be used to assess training participants’ knowledge, attitudes, skills, and awareness and to evaluate the effectiveness of varying types and styles of training programs. Federal and state regulatory bodies have begun to require service providers to identify how they will address disparities faced by LGBTQ individuals, so service providers need to demonstrate how they are improving access to and quality of care for LGBTQ individuals. Therefore, the LGBTQY-CC may provide a means to gather data on efforts made by service providers to improve their behavioral health workforce’s capacity to serve LGBTQ youth.


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