National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Available Now! New Report to Congress on RHY Program

In fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015, Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs provided services to more than 30,000 youth in emergency shelters, served another 3,000 youth in longer term shelters, and made more than 450,000 contacts with youth on the street.

These and other achievements of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) are described in the just-published Report to Congress on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. The most recent biennial report outlines the uses and impact of congressional funding during FY2014 and FY2015, for which runaway and homeless youth programs received approximately $114 million in federal grant funds each year. These funds were provided to grantees in FYSB's three program areas: Basic Center Programs, Transitional Living Programs and Maternity Group Home Programs, and Street Outreach Programs.

The Report to Congress includes a brief executive summary of key points and data. Subsequent chapters cover each of the grant programs — Basic Center, Transitional Living and Maternity Group Home, and Street Outreach — in greater detail. Additional chapters describe other FYSB activities and initiatives, including the National Runaway Safeline and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center, progress made on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Monitoring System, and research efforts.

Read the complete Report to Congress on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015!

New Research Shows Impact of Opioid Epidemic on Child Welfare Services

After more than a decade of sustained declines in the national foster care caseload, beginning in 2012, the number of children entering foster care began to rise. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of children in foster care nationally rose by 10 percent, from 397,600 to 437,500. The experience of individual states varied, though more than two-thirds (36 states) experienced caseload increases. Hardest hit have been six states whose foster care populations rose by more than 50 percent over this four year period.

While many believe parental substance use – including prescription drugs, illicit drugs and alcohol, but especially opioids – has been the primary cause of the increase in foster care placements, thus far there has been little evidence to support this assertion. To better understand how select indicators associated with substance use relate to the changing trend in child welfare caseloads, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) carried out a research study that included both quantitative analysis and qualitative data collection. The first two research briefs from this study were released in March 2018. Top-level findings are as follows:

  • Caseloads: Nationally, rates of drug overdose deaths and drug-related hospitalizations have a positive relationship with child welfare caseloads (that is, rates of child protective services reports, substantiated reports, and foster care placements). Generally, counties with higher overdose death and drug hospitalization rates have higher caseload rates. In addition, these substance use indicators correlate with rates of more complex and severe child welfare cases.
  • Availability and use of substance use treatment: Several major challenges affect how child welfare agencies and families interact with substance use treatment options, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Family-friendly treatment options are limited, and caseworkers, courts, and other providers often misunderstand how treatment works and lack guidelines on how to incorporate it into child welfare practice.
  • System response: Child welfare agencies and their community partners are struggling to meet families’ needs. Haphazard substance use assessment practices, barriers to collaboration with substance use treatment providers and other stakeholders, and shortages of foster homes and trained staff undermine the effectiveness of agencies’ responses to families.

The research briefs are available at the ASPE website

FYSB Posts Updated Program Area Factsheets

The Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) recently posted fact sheets describing its Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) grant program areas, updated for January 2018.

FYSB currently awards grants in four areas. Click the links below to view the fact sheet for each program:

  • FYSB’s Basic Center Program funds programs providing youth up to age 18 with emergency, short-term shelter, food, clothing, counseling, and referrals for health care. Basic centers provided emergency shelter for more than 31,000 youth in FY 2016.
  • The Transitional Living Program provides a safety net and strong emotional support system for young people ages 16 to 22 to transition into self-sufficiency. FYSB-funded transitional living programs helped more than 5,000 homeless youth transition to life on their own in FY 2016.
  • The Maternity Group Home Program, part of the Transitional Living Program, provides intensive support to homeless pregnant and/or parenting young people ages 16 to 22, teaching them parenting skills as well as child development, family budgeting, health and nutrition, and other skills.
  • The Street Outreach Program promotes efforts by its grantees to build relationships between street outreach workers and runaway, homeless, and street youth. With the goal of preventing the sexual abuse or exploitation of young people living on the streets or in unstable housing, the Street Outreach Program funds services such as access to emergency shelter, survival aid, trauma-informed treatment and counseling, and crisis intervention.

For more information on applying for and managing FYSB-funded grants, click here

Counting Homeless Youth — Seven Tips to Get It Right!

During the last 10 days of each January, municipalities across the United States participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) annual homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The effort is required under the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. The count takes place on a single night with the goal of estimating how many individuals are living without shelter. That number is one important data point among many in determining the total homeless population of a community — and in turn, the nation.

On the given night, trained PIT volunteers spread out on foot to look for individuals experiencing homelessness and administer a HUD-designed survey. The survey captures general information about each person encountered (such as age, gender, and race/ethnicity), as well as other data points related to health and wellness, history, and past experiences.

The PIT count can be a useful experience for youth-serving agencies, but it may not capture an accurate number of homeless youth, since young people often experience homelessness differently than adults. Below are some of the best practices and tips for your community to consider when planning and implementing a count of young people experiencing homelessness, whether PIT, Youth Count!, or any other similar effort.

Research the issues – Counting homeless youth requires a different approach than counting homeless adults. Count Me — Hidden in Plain Sight: Documenting Homeless Youth Populations can help planners understand some of the complicating factors, including that some unhoused youth do not want to be found because they are fleeing abusive family situations or fear being returned to foster care. 

Use HUD’s Model PIT Count Survey for Youth – HUD provides CoCs with youth-specific interview protocols, complete with questions that address the unique nature of youth homelessness. The survey can gather information about the respondent’s current education enrollment, potential exploitation, and other topics, developed by homeless youth methodology experts.

Follow the protocols of street outreach – In essence, the PIT count resembles a Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) Street Outreach Program (SOP), going out to meet homeless people “where they are.” During the 2015 Washington, D.C., PIT count, where the pictures for this article were taken, one SOP worker from Sasha Bruce Youth Work, a FYSB grantee, explained how his work prepared him for the task. “You've got to put their safety first. It’s making sure they see us first. Making sure that it’s very clear that I’m a friendly voice and I’m not trying to cause you harm or hurt. [SOP workers] bring the experience of being able to talk to a young person and create a natural easiness, create a natural relationship where a young person isn’t put on guard.”

Don’t look for youth who “look homeless” – That same SOP leader stressed something that all youth workers (but perhaps not all homeless-adult providers or PIT volunteers) understand: homeless youth don’t often fit the typical “homeless” profile. In fact, they often don’t consider themselves homeless at all. “There are clear indicators of what an adult homeless individual looks like. For a young person, they could be dressed appropriately, you know, very fashion-forward, and still not have a place to go.” If you see a young person during the PIT count, which typically takes place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., engage them in an open-ended conversation about your work before making any assumptions about their situation.

A volunteer for the D.C. Point In Time count

Involve community partners, including schools – The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) says that schools can help make your city’s PIT count more youth friendly. NCHE’s report on these partnerships explains how schools can help identify places to check for homeless youth, create incentives for youth participation in the count, and recruit volunteers.

Encourage youth themselves to participate – The Urban Institute, in a report, Counting Homeless Youth: Promising Practices from the Youth Count! Initiative, found that youth involvement can improve the PIT and related population counts.

Host a post-count debrief – The entire PIT process, and the youth portion specifically, are a work in progress. The Urban Institute report cited above also recommends that all youth-count efforts should include a debrief with participants and volunteers to discuss the count and ways it can be improved in the future. 

If you have any other advice or words of wisdom for getting an accurate count of homeless youth, please share! Email us at

2016 National Runaway Safeline Crisis Contacts Report

This report provides key information on the thousands of youth in crisis who contacted the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) in 2016. In addition to the data collected by NRS during interactions with people who contact the Safeline, the report also comments on and analyzes the data to identify trends and illuminate reasons youth contacted NRS. NRS responded to 29,806 inquiries from youth and adults seeking help and information. Almost 75 percent of contacts were youth, 9 percent identified themselves as parents, and 6 percent said they contacted NRS about a friend.

Paper/Research Report
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