New rule strengthens runaway and homeless youth programs

A new rule to improve performance standards and program requirements for runaway and homeless youth is announced today by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), at the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF).

The new rule builds upon existing policies and guidance to better support runaway and homeless youth by improving nondiscrimination protections for youth, strengthening training and professional development for service providers, define safe and appropriate exits from homelessness and require aftercare planning for all youth exiting programs. The rule also clarifies statutory changes made to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008.

The new rule specifically prohibits discriminatory exclusion from programs and services on the basis of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth cannot be discriminated against or excluded from RHY programs and services. The new guidelines also prohibit youth in care from being treated or referred to treatment to conversion or reparative therapies that aim to change sexual orientation or gender identity.

In July 2015, HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) along with a panel of experts from the American Psychological Association released a comprehensive report that found such therapies are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.

Rule Highlights

As a result of the final rule, runaway and homeless youth program grantees will be required to:

  • Ensure homeless youth are not discriminated against or excluded from programs or services because of their race, ethnicity, age, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical or cognitive ability, or background
  • Meet performance standards to improve outcomes for youths’ social and emotional well-being, permanent connections, education and employment, and stable housing
  • Require background checks for all paid and non-paid staff who have regular and unsupervised contact with youth served by a grantee as well as for all adults who reside in or operate host homes
  • Promote collaboration and partnership with communities and federal, state, and local systems; including child welfare, juvenile justice and continuums of care to address youth homelessness

According to the recently released Street Outreach Program Data Collection Study, a survey of a subset of homeless youth served by FYSB grantees, more than half of the youth became homeless because they were asked to leave home by a parent or caregiver.  

Runaway and homeless youth programs serve and protect nearly 30,000 youth experiencing homelessness each year through the Street Outreach Program, Basic Center Program, Transitioning Living Program and Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth. The RHY programs also provide funding to grantees to improve the quality of services to runaway and homeless youth through research, demonstration projects, the National Runaway Safeline, training and technical assistance.

Quick Facts

  • On average, youth first became homeless at age 15 and spent nearly two years living on the streets.
  • Consistent with other studies, nearly 30 percent of participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and nearly seven percent identified as transgender.
  • Runaway & homeless youth programs serve and protect nearly 30,000 youth experiencing homelessness each year through the Street Outreach Program, Basic Center Program, Transitioning Living Program and Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth

Quotes

“The Obama Administration has worked toward a goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020.”
Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“This rule supports that effort by establishing new requirements for programs that serve runaway and homeless youth, including performance standards, background check requirements for staff, requirements for equitable and non-discriminatory treatment, and requirements for “after-care” plans for youth leaving programs.”
Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“It is estimated that up to 40 percent of youth who are homeless in our country identify as LGBTQ. These regulations continue our commitment to serving all youth experiencing homelessness—regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
Rafael López, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families
“We want to ensure that all runaway and homeless youth have access to high quality housing and supportive services. We want our youth to be respected for who they are and to receive the help they need, when they need it.”
Rafael López, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families
Last Reviewed: December 15, 2016
Archived: November 14, 2017

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