This toolkit, published by the Family and Youth Services Bureau [FYSB], targets direct service providers who work with homeless and runaway youth across the United States. “Based on four decades of work with runaway and homeless youth and…emerging evidence about what youth need to succeed, FYSB believes…outcomes for youth served by runaway and homeless youth programs [should] include safety, well-being, permanent connections and self-sufficiency.
‘Focusing on Outcomes for Youth’ aims to help [service providers] get young people to those outcomes. It describes the practical steps a number of community-based organizations have taken to
· Keep young people safe
· Improve their social and emotional well-being
· Help them develop permanent connections to supportive adults
· Build their self-sufficiency” (p.1).
The toolkit starts by defining each of the recommended youth outcomes listed above. The remainder of the resource is divided into four sections focused on each of these outcomes. The sections provide advice and examples from shelters and nonprofit programs that have had success in helping youth achieve safety, well-being, permanent connections, or self-sufficiency. The toolkit includes tips, interviews with experts, and a profile of a youth runaway who was able to attend college. The goal is to help provider staff better serve youth who are already homeless and prevent those who are at-risk from running away.
Profiled organizations span the country, including shelters and nonprofits from Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, OR, Tucson, AZ, Western Nebraska, California, Texas, New York, and Toledo, OH. While the specific interventions and strategies vary by program provider, they include low-threshold shelters which do not “require referrals or identification to stay,” (p.3), health clinics tailored for homeless or runaway youth, art therapy programs, gender-specific programming, and trauma-informed care for trafficked youth. The toolkit also offers concrete examples of steps providers can take to connect homeless or runaway youth to employment and college opportunities.(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)
Major Findings & Recommendations
The authors define the four outcomes they suggest for homeless and runaway youth and provide recommendations for how providers can work with youth to achieve them. Well-being: “Youth enjoy general good health and have access to treatment and care when they need it. Beyond physical health, they have satisfactory life circumstances” (p.2). The well-being section highlights the benefits of low-threshold shelters for connecting youth to services in a non-threatening way; the role of health services in promoting well-being and how services can be tailored for homeless youth; and how providers can use art to work with at-risk youth. Permanent connections: “Youth have a stable living situation that they do not fear losing or having to leave. They have solid, healthy relationships and connections…to whom they can turn in good times and bad” (p.2). The permanent connections section profiles a shelter in Portland, OR that provides services to help youth forge permanent connections to their families or other supportive adults, an agency in Tucson, AZ that places homeless teen couples together to support their relationship, and two California organizations that aim to increase connections and self-esteem through single sex program models. Safety: “Youth are able to live free from violence, abuse, neglect, harassment, stalking, exploitation and fear. This sense of safety is physical, emotional and mental” (p.2). The safety section of the toolkit focuses on programs that offer runaway prevention services, such as discussions about improving family communication skills and presentations that emphasize the realities of homelessness. It also profiles the Let’s Talk Runaway Prevention Curriculum. Finally, the toolkit provides information about serving trafficked youth, such as through survivor-led programs, and describes the purpose of aftercare services that assist youth with remaining stable after they find housing. Self-sufficiency: “Youth have the skills, or are learning the skills, to live independently, support and take care of themselves” (p.2). The self-sufficiency section begins with six experts’ thoughts about “the biggest obstacles to helping youth become self-sufficient, and how [to] overcome them” (p.21). It also offers tips for how providers can help youth market themselves to employers as well as ways providers can encourage youth to go to college, such as simplifying paperwork and paying for fees and deposits. (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)