New Definitions for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Recommended
On September 6, 2012, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) and the National Network for Youth (NN4Y) released “Alone Without a Home: A State-by-State Review of Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth.” The report, last updated in 2003, describes barriers faced by unaccompanied homeless youth and illustrates national trends.
It also summarizes current state laws, including New Jersey, in 12 key issue areas related to the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth, including rights of youth to enter into contracts, health care access and discharge from the juvenile justice system.
The report makes the following policy recommendations:
- Establish a definition of “youth” that is distinct from “child.”
- Extend eligibility for publicly funded opportunities and supports available for children and youth to include older young people through age 24.
- Define “runaway child” and “runaway youth” in both criminal and civil statutes. Define “homeless child” and “homeless youth” in both criminal and civil statues using the definition found in the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act.
- Establish separate definitions of “missing child” and “runaway child.”
- Replace judgmental and negative terminology (e.g., unruly, incorrigible, vagrant) for youth in high-risk situations with neutral terminology.
The authors suggest that the report will be a useful tool for service providers, advocates, and attorneys who provide direct assistance to unaccompanied youth at-risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.
Click here for the report.