National Runaway Prevention Month: Shining a Light on Runaway and Homeless Youth Issues
By Elizabeth Darling, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families . A key component of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Program’s mission is supporting programs that work every day to provide essential services and a safe place to youth experiencing homelessness nationwide. We know that 4.2 million youth between the ages of 13 and 25 will experience some form of homelessness each year; however, issues impacting youth homelessness still remain invisible. Many of these young people run away to escape overwhelming and traumatic situations, such as family issues and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home.
As the Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), I have the privilege to see firsthand how our programs work every day to engage with youth who need services and how their work can change the lives of young people. Their services and commitment are critical to minimize youth homelessness. This November, I want to recognize human services professionals who provide support to young people coming into their programs. I also want to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of preventing runaway episodes and youth homelessness from happening in the first place. Young people who run away and experience homelessness are also likely to undergo multiple traumatic situations—making them more likely to engage in substance use, become teenage parents, drop out of school, and experience violence. They are also at increased risk for being sexually exploited and trafficked.
How can we prevent or reduce runaway and homelessness challenges? Public awareness, community education, and ongoing actions are our best tools. Each November, FYSB joins youth-serving organizations, youth advocates, and other partners across the nation to observe National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM), a public-awareness campaign designed to “Shine a Light” on the experiences of runaway and homeless youth, and spotlight prevention resources available for youth in crisis and those experiencing homelessness.
NRPM campaign is a social media awareness effort that provides multiple ways to increase community education about runaway prevention and offer resources to provide alternatives to youth who are considering running away. This year, NRPM is hosting several national events to shine a light on runaway and homeless youth issues. We plan to discuss prevention to tackle the challenges facing runaway and homeless youth, as well as hold a roundtable discussion with young people who have experienced homelessness. Please visit NRPM to learn how you can join these events and unite with others to shine a light. NRPM is also a reminder of the unique opportunities to ensure vulnerable youth can access resources and information to help them transition to a safer and healthier adulthood.
There are also multiple ways to support runaway and homeless youth beyond November, such as ensuring that youth voices are at the table when discussing youth homelessness issues, and that communities and youth are aware of the free services and resources provided by the National Runaway Safeline.
I believe that everyone can play a role in runaway and youth homelessness prevention. Please join me in helping ensure that challenges for youth are effectively addressed in each community and services are available for young people experiencing homelessness. We can all shine a light for runaway and homeless youth, so they don’t remain invisible.
Thank you for joining NRPM!