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.
Runaway and homeless youth have higher rates of involvement with the juvenile justice system1 including higher rates of misdemeanor charges and gang affiliation.2 According to a study of runaway and homeless youth in the Midwest, over half had been arrested at least one time since they first ran away, with many arrested multiple times.3 They may engage in delinquent acts such as stealing, selling drugs, and prostitution as strategies for survival.4 Youth who have run away multiple times, who ran away at an early age, and who have experienced externalizing behavioral disorders (e.g., drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and conduct disorders) have been found to be more likely to be involved in these delinquent behaviors and subsequent arrest(s).5 In addition, many homeless youth have been involved in the juvenile justice system.6
When young people leave residential juvenile justice placements, they face many challenges as they reenter the community, home, and school/work force. Youth may return to unstable home settings, face a lack of family support, struggle to remain in school, lack the skills needed for employment, and experience a gap in behavioral health services. Further, they can face policies that may prohibit convicted offenders from living in Section 8 housing.7 These barriers may create situations where youth return to the street at release. In these cases, there is a strong chance they will become involved in the same behaviors that initially led to arrest.8 Learn more about how planning for reentry when a youth enters the juvenile justice system can increase success, and about the federal programs that support homeless and runaway youth to keep them from returning to the streets and continuing the cycle of homelessness and delinquency.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008; Kaufman & Windom, 1999
2 Thompson & Pollio, 2006
3 Chen, Thrane, Whitbeck, & Johnson, 2006
4 Whitbeck & Simmons, 1993
5 Whitbeck & Simmons, 1993; Chen, Thrane, Whitbeck, & Johnson, 2006
6 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008
7 Altschuler & Brash, 2004; HUD, 2012
8 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
Other Resources on this Topic
Over the course of 6 months, approximately 10% of juvenile detainees thought about suicide, and 11% had attempted suicide.