Dept. of Justice

Homelessness and Runaway

Homelessness is a major social concern in the United States, and youth may be the age group most at risk of becoming homeless.1 The number of youth who have experienced homelessness varies depending on the age range, timeframe, and definition used, but sources estimate that between 500,000 and 2.8 million youth are homeless within the United States each year.2

Youth run away or are homeless for a range of reasons, but involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and severe family conflict have all been found to be associated with youth becoming homeless. These youth are vulnerable to a range of negative experiences including exploitation and victimization. Runaway and homeless youth have high rates of involvement in the juvenile justice system, are more likely to engage in substance use and delinquent behavior, be teenage parents, drop out of school, suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, and meet the criteria for mental illness.3 Experiences of unaccompanied homeless youth are different from those who experience homelessness with their families. While negative experiences persist for youth who are homeless with their families, their experiences may not vary drastically from youth living in poverty.4 Studies have also found distinct variability in outcomes experienced by homeless youth, suggesting that youth experience homelessness differently.5

Providing timely and direct interventions to homeless and runaway youth is important to protect them from the risks of living on the streets and to support positive youth development6, yet despite the risks and needs of these youth, few appear to know of, and access, support services.7 Even more critical is addressing the family/parental needs to prevent youth and/or their families from becoming homeless and addressing their behavioral health needs through comprehensive methods that involve both youth and their families. 

1 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
2 Cooper, 2006
3 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010; Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
4 Samuels, Shinn, & Buckner, 2010
5 Huntington, Buckner, & Bassuk, 2008
6 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010
7 Pergamit & Ernst, 2010

 

National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (NFYVP)

The Forum models a new kind of federal/local collaboration, encouraging its members to change the way they do business by sharing common challenges and promising strategies, and through coordinated action.

National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS)

The National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) began in 1994 and is a coalition of national organizations, business leaders, and federal agencies focused on youth engagement and the promotion of health and safety for youth.

Key components that support the structure of NOYS include the following

  • Board of directors
  • Meetings and communication
  • Working groups

The collaboration’s best practices include

Partnership for Results

Partnership for Results(The Partnership) is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000.

Memphis Fast Forward

The City of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee have developed three interwoven violence prevention initiatives—Operation: Safe Community, the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan, and the Defending Childhood Initiative.

Key components that support the structure of these initiatives include

Mental Health

It is normal for children and youth to experience various types of emotional distress as they develop and mature. For example, it is common for children to experience anxiety about school, or youth to experience short periods of depression that are transient in nature. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance. While most youth are healthy, physically and emotionally, one in every four to five youth in the general population meet criteria for a lifetime mental disorder and as a result may face discrimination and negative attitudes.1 As with physical health, mental health is not merely the absence of disease or a mental health disorder. It includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, social well-being2 and involves being able to

  • navigate successfully the complexities of life,
  • develop fulfilling relationships,
  • adapt to change,
  • utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.
  • realize their potential,
  • have their needs met, and
  • develop skills that help them navigate the different environments they inhabit.3

The presence or absence of various combinations of protective and risk factors contribute to the mental health of youth and efforts can be undertaken to promote positive mental health and prevent or minimize mental health problems. Youth with mental health disorders may face challenges in their homes, school, community, and interpersonal relationships. Despite these challenges, for most youth, mental health distress is episodic, not permanent, and most can successfully navigate the challenges that come from experiencing a mental health disorder with treatment, peer and professional supports and services, and a strong family and social support network. 

1 Merikangas, He, Burstein, et al., 2010
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; CDC, Health-Related Quality of Life, 2011
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004

The National Institute of Corrections' Video Visiting Guide

The National Institute of Corrections recently released a guide to address the benefits and challenges of using common video visiting models across a variety of correctional settings.

Salinas Walks For Life

Salinas residents walk to fight gang violence and violent crime in their city.

Violence Prevention

Youth violence is a significant problem that affects thousands of young people each day, and in turn, their families, schools, and communities.1 Youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for youth in the United States.2 In 2016, more than 530,000 young people ages 10-24 were treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained from violence.3

Youth violence typically involves young people hurting other peers. It can take different forms. Examples include fights, bullying, threats with weapons, and gang-related violence. A young person can be involved with youth violence as a victim, offender, or witness.

Youth violence is preventable. To prevent and eliminate violence and improve youth well-being, communities should employ evidence-based, comprehensive approaches that address the multiple factors that impact violence, both factors that increase risk of violence and factors that buffer against risk and promote positive youth development and well-being.

Prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies that are trauma-informed are key. Many youth have experienced traumatic events, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; family and community violence; natural disasters; and the ongoing, cumulative impact of poverty, racism, and oppression. Repeated exposure to traumatic events increases the risk of youth violence. Organizational trauma-informed care that is grounded in an understanding of the causes and consequences of trauma can promote resilience and healing, while reducing youth violence.

Prevention cannot be accomplished by one sector alone. Justice, public health, education, health care (mental, behavioral, medical), government (local, state, and federal), social services, business, housing, media, and organizations that comprise the civil society sector, such as faith-based organizations, youth-serving organizations, foundations, and other non-governmental organizations all need to play a role. In addition, the voices of children, youth, and families who are most affected by violence must be front and center. Collectively, we can prevent and eliminate violence and improve well-being.

Resources

SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach (PDF, 27 pages)
The purpose of this publication, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is to develop a working concept of trauma and a trauma-informed approach, and to develop a shared understanding of these concepts that would be acceptable and appropriate across an array of service systems and stakeholder groups. This framework is for the behavioral health specialty sectors, but can be adapted to other sectors such as child welfare, education, criminal and juvenile justice, primary health care, and the military.

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions
This webpage, focused on trauma and trauma-informed approaches, is geared towards health, behavioral health and integrated care leadership, staff, and patients/consumers. The information and resources provided can be easily adapted to other groups and settings such as schools.

Shared Framework for Reducing Youth Violence and Promoting Well Being (PDF, 15 pages)
The Shared Framework draws upon previously developed frameworks and models and incorporates the research and programmatic evidence base that the federal, state, and local partners have built over three decades across multiple disciplines. This includes key elements of current and past initiatives—the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, Defending Childhood, and the Community-based Violence Prevention program—and other federal youth violence work of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Administration for Children and Families, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VetoViolence Portal
VetoViolence is CDC’s online source of free violence prevention trainings, tools, and resources.

Violence Reduction Response Center
This VRCC resource from the Bureau of Justice Assistance provides free, timely, direct access to expert staff who can connect users to the most relevant violent crime reduction training and technical assistance. Violence reduction professionals, law enforcement agencies, victims’ groups, and other practitioners in the field can use the VRRC as a one-stop shop to connect to resources that fit their unique needs.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018a
2 CDC, 2018b
2 CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2018

Trafficking Prevention

Trafficking of youth is a form of modern slavery within the United States. It is a crime involving the exploitation of U.S. citizen/resident or noncitizen youth for the purpose of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, regardless of whether the trafficker or the victim crossed state or international borders. If a person younger than 18 is induced to perform a commercial sex act, it is a crime regardless of whether there is force, fraud, or coercion.1

Members of the youth-serving community are in a unique position to recognize children who may be on the path to becoming victimized and to report suspicions to the appropriate authorities. Once victims are identified, housing, medical and mental health, immigration, food, income, employment authorization, and legal services may be available to assist them. Federal agencies and departments are working collaboratively to raise awareness about human trafficking and the impact on victims, reduce the prevalence of human trafficking, support victims, prosecute offenders, and provide communities with the capacity to respond to the problem.

1 [U.S.C. §7102(8)]