Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
The 2010 Opening Doors Strategic Plan to end homelessness developed by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness suggests that there are six areas that are consistently identified as necessary to address and prevent youth homelessness. These include the following:
- Individualized goal-based service planning
- Ongoing support services connected to mainstream resources
- Independent living skills training
- Connection to supportive and trustworthy adults
- Employment and education
Stability, safety, and connections with families, when appropriate, have also been shown to be important.1 Examples of a number of federal programs that strive to address these areas and support youth experiencing homelessness and runaway youth include:
Basic Center Program (BCP)
BCP was authorized in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and is supported by the Family and Youth Service Bureau (FYSB) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). BCP helps to create and strengthen community-based programs that meet the immediate needs of runaway youth and youth experiencing homelessness under 18 years old by providing up to 21 days of shelter, food, clothing, and medical care; individual, group, and family counseling; crisis intervention, recreation programs, and aftercare services. One of the goals of BCP is to reunite young people with their families or locate appropriate alternative placements.
Transitional Living Program (TLP)
TLP was authorized in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and is supported by the FYSB within the ACF. TLP provides long-term residential services to youth experiencing homelessness between the ages of 16 and 22. TLP provides living arrangements for youth in host families, group homes, maternity group homes, and supervised apartments owned or rented by the program. In addition the program provides the following:
- Safe, stable living accommodations
- Basic life-skills building including consumer education, budgeting, housekeeping, food preparation, and parenting skills
- Educational opportunities, such as GED preparation, post-secondary training, and vocational education
- Job attainment services, such as career counseling and job placement
- Mental health care, including individual and group counseling
- Physical health care, such as physicals, health assessments, and emergency treatment
Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth Program (MGH)
MGH, supported by the FYSB within the ACF, provides support for pregnant and/or parenting youth experiencing homelessness between the ages of 16 and 22, as well as their dependent children. The MGH program provides similar services to TLP, as well as services that incorporate positive youth development and teach parenting skills, child development, family budgeting, and health and nutrition.
Street Outreach Program (SOP)
SOP, supported by the FYSB within the ACF, supports work with youth experiencing homelessness, runaway youth, and street youth to help them find stable housing and services. SOP focuses on developing relationships between outreach workers and young people that allow them to rebuild connections with caring adults. The ultimate goal is to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of youth on the streets. The services include street-based education and outreach, access to emergency shelter, survival aid, treatment and counseling, crisis intervention, and follow-up support.
McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program or Education for Homeless Children and Youth Grants
Formula grants are provided to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, based on each state’s share of Title I, Part A, funds. The outlying areas and the Bureau of Indian Affairs also receive funds. The program provides funds for an office for coordination of the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in each state; helps State Education Agencies to ensure that children experiencing homelessness, including preschoolers and youths, have equal access to free and appropriate public education (FAPE); and mandates that states review and revise laws and practices that impede such equal access. Learn more about the program on the Department of Education website.
HUD Homeless and Housing Programs
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) supports the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs with a goal of reducing the incidence of homelessness in CoC communities, by assisting individuals and families experiencing homelessness in quickly transitioning to self-sufficiency and permanent housing, as authorized under Title IV of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The CoC Homeless Assistance Programs include the Supportive Housing Program, the Shelter Plus Care Program, and the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation for Single Room Occupancy Program. Learn more about these programs and additional HUD programs on their website.
John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP)
CFCIP offers assistance to help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency. Grants are offered to states and Tribes that submit a plan to assist youth in a wide variety of areas designed to support a successful transition to adulthood. Activities and programs include, but are not limited to, help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support, and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care. The program is intended to serve youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18; youth who, after attaining 16 years of age, have left foster care for kinship guardianship or adoption; and young adults ages 18 to 21 who have aged out of the foster care system.
Education and Training Vouchers Program for Youths Aging out of Foster Care (ETV) (PDF, 1 page)
ETV was added to the CFCIP in 2002. ETV provides resources specifically to meet the education and training needs of youth aging out of foster care. In addition to the existing authorization of $140 million for the CFCIP program, the law authorizes $60 million for payments to states and Tribes for post secondary educational and training vouchers for youth likely to experience difficulty as they transition to adulthood after the age of 18. This program makes available vouchers of up to $5,000 per year per youth for post-secondary education and training for eligible youth.
Federal Programs to End Homelessness
There are many federal programs that help to prevent and end homelessness. Some are specifically targeted toward this goal, while others, referred to as "mainstream programs," are available to all low-income persons who meet eligibility criteria. Click on the Departments on the page to learn about what different departments are doing to end homelessness.
1 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2010
Other Resources on this Topic
Tools & Guides
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).