A New Federal Approach to Working With Homeless Youth


One of the objectives of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness is to end youth homelessness by 2020. Here at NCFY, we want to help you understand how USICH aims to do that, in collaboration with federal, state and local government, and of course with programs that work directly with homeless young people.

A big step forward came in September when USICH unveiled a new “intervention model” for working with homeless youth who are on their own, apart from their families. Part of the 2012 amendment (PDF,2.17MB)  to the Opening Doors strategic plan to end homelessness, the model is meant to harness what we know about homeless youth from research. What makes them more or less likely to succeed in school and life or to have problems? The model will enable youth workers to build “protective factors,” reduce “risk factors” and get young people these four important things:

  1. Stable housing
  2. Permanent connections with friends, family, teachers and others
  3. Well-being
  4. Education and employment

The illustration below, from the Opening Doors amendment, takes you through the steps of using the model.

Unaccompanied Youth Intervention Model. Shows two rings. The rings start with a group of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. System- and organization-level planning (outer ring): (1) Establish screening and assessment tools and processes; (2) Plan system strategies and service array considering levels and types of risk and protection; (3) Implement intervention strategies with fidelity and attention to practice frameworks; (4) Evaluate impacts. Youth-level planning (inner circle): (1) Screen and assess based on risk and protective factors; (2) Target individual plans to decrease risk factors, increase protective factors, and reflect youth’s goals; (3) Match effective, culturally appropriate interventions; (4) Monitor progress and adjust services as needed.  Improve Core Outcomes: Stable housing, permanent connections, well-being, education or employment.

Here’s how we think NCFY fits in to making the model something you, as a youth worker, can actually use (each of these points fits with the corresponding step in the graphic):

  1. We’re updating our popular list of assessment and screening tools for measuring mental health, substance abuse, and independent living skills in adolescents.
  2. We’ll keep summarizing the latest research on risks and protective factors among runaway and homeless youth.
  3. We’ll be expanding our coverage of evidence-based interventions that runaway and homeless youth programs across the country are using.
  4. We’ll continue writing about FYSB’s four outcomes for runaway and homeless youth and how you can help youth achieve them.

Stay tuned!

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth | 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800 | North Bethesda, MD 20852 | (301) 608-8098 | ncfy@acf.hhs.gov