On November 4, the Children’s Bureau (CB) and the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) released ACYF-CB/FYSB-IM-14-1, an informational memorandum that provides oversight and guidance on youth who run from foster care and come in contact with runaway and homeless youth programs.  Noting that youth age 12 through 17 move between the two federally funded programs, the IM emphasized that coordination particularly with the use of federal funds is important.

FYSB conducted a recent survey of homeless and runaway youth aged 14 to 21 and found that of those surveyed, nearly half had been kicked out of their homes by their parents or guardians, 30 percent are gay, lesbian or bisexual.  Information in the IM noted that 60 percent of those surveyed had been victims of beatings, rape, robbery or other traumatic events.

The recently passed Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act has new requirements regarding the tracking of children who run from foster care.  The last AFCARS report indicates that of the 402,000 children in foster care 4,500 are listed as “runaway.”  According to the information in the IM, of the runaways from foster care, most entered care after age 12 with nearly half entering after the age of 15 with most having three or four foster care placements. The survey found that one of the three top reasons for running was a connection or emotional pull of their biological family and for others it is a lack of a stable placement.

The guidance urges coordination between the child welfare agency and runaway programs and shelters and urges state policymakers to consider key policies considerations.  These policies decisions include the types of shelters that distinguish between age groups, interstate coordination and communication, and consideration of the reasons children run.  Some refuse to enter shelters if they believe they will be placed back into a placement they did not like or feared. HHS also encourages memorandums of understanding between the child welfare and runway programs to outline responsibilities including the financing of care.

The consolidated Runaway and Homes Youth programs provide only $54 million for housing and $44 million for transitional living services.  The funding is for the entire country and it rarely increases.  As a result any additional funding sources are critical to help address the estimated 380,000 runaway and homeless minor youth.  It is possible for these programs to have agreements with child welfare agencies that allow for the use of Title IV-E funding for shelter costs. Runaway and Homeless Youth programs generally allow for 14 to 21 days in shelters but the guidance indicates that states with policies and procedures outlined will usually require strong justification if stays are longer than the 21 days.

The use of Title IV-E funding, however limited by homeless and runaway programs, could be impacted by potential future changes or restrictions on the use of IV-E funds tied to lifetime or residential placement limits.  There are some shelters and programs that do have agreements with the state child welfare agency and the funding is critical.