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Completed: The Forgotten Children— Unaccompanied, Runaway & Homeless Youth

Whitepaper Summary by Dr. Natasha Slesnick

Runaway and homeless youth are one of the most vulnerable populations worldwide. Among minor streetliving youth, 90% are between 16-17 years old. These youth are most often disconnected from family, and underserved by communities, left to fend for themselves on the fringes of our society. With limited rights and privacy, they have little access to services and supports needed to survive independently. Providers also experience legal barriers in serving youth, as well as limited guidance for interventions and from policy. Intervention recommendations, including outreach, drop-in centers, housing and support services are discussed in this paper. Randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm the efficacy of chosen intervention approaches in order to guide effective policy recommendations. However, in order to increase access to services, state laws need to expand services and supports to youth, and mandatory reporting laws for homeless youth need to be modified. Language of delinquency, runaway and curfew laws needs to be amended to protect agencies that serve these youth. Further, youth need to be added to local communities’ plans to end homelessness, and state and local agencies should review and amend policies that may be barriers to serving unaccompanied homeless youth.

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