Evidence-Based Approach to Ending Youth Homelessness

As part of its effort to end youth homelessness by 2020, the federal government developed the Intervention Model for Unaccompanied Youth (PDF, 2.9MB). The model recommends runaway and homeless youth programs do the following, among other things:

  • Use evidence-based screening and assessment tools when youth enter a program.[1]
  • Use the information from screening and assessment to choose evidence-based interventions that can give young people stable housing, permanent connections, improved well-being, and opportunities for education and employment.

To help put the model into practice, the Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) compiled this list of evidence-based, evidence-informed, and promising screening and assessment tools, in consultation with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and its youth workgroup partners. Some of the tools listed here have been tested on populations that are considered by researchers to have backgrounds or issues similar to runaway and homeless youth, such as at-risk or foster youth. Some were not tested exclusively on disadvantaged populations, but have demonstrated reliability and validity across multiple populations. FYSB and USICH do not necessarily endorse the tools included in the list.

[1]The base of evidence showing how effective screening and assessment tools are, and how effective they are for distinct target populations is continually growing. In addition, new promising, potentially effective instruments are continually emerging. More information about understanding the continuum of evidence of effectiveness can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Understanding Evidence (PDF, 875KB) guide. The levels of evidence as defined by the CDC are presented below:

  • Evidence-based Interventions: These are well-supported interventions that have been found to be effective by at least two studies using well-controlled research designs that included randomized controlled trials with multiple follow-up assessments to track outcomes over time. Furthermore, the interventions have been tested in multiple settings, like outpatient clinics or in community programs.

  • Evidence-informed Interventions: These are supported interventions that have shown effectiveness, with evidence drawn from studies using research designs other than randomized controlled trials, such as quasi-experimental research designs.

  • Promising Interventions: These are interventions that may still be in the early phases of research. These interventions may show some level of effectiveness, but are based on studies that have used non-experimental designs, such as qualitative program evaluations and non-randomized pilot studies.

Not all of the tools are rated by the CDC, however. They appear in a variety of prominent federal, national, and academic databases that rate the effectiveness of interventions, and these entities may provide different ratings for the same intervention as a result of varying criteria for effectiveness. Therefore, the level of effectiveness for each intervention may be a composite of ratings reviewed from several databases and studies.