Last week the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) released its annual report. The key headline is:
“After many years of rapid growth in connections from youth in crisis before a runaway episode, NRS has noticed a shift toward more crisis connections initiated by youth during a runaway episode over the past two years (2016-17). The number of crisis connections from youth asked to leave home and homeless youth in particular has increased significantly (46% and 36% increases, respectively), while connections from youth in crisis (14% increase) have been growing at slower rates. This shift toward connections from youth who have left home aligns with similar jumps in whereabouts of crisis connections from youth on the street (31% increase) and in shelters (29%) over the past two years.
NRS has continued to see more crisis connections about abuse and neglect, a trend that NRS has highlighted in a number of past reports as well. Across all categories of abuse and neglect, there have been increases of 43% over the past two years, 65% over the past five years, and 50% over the last ten years. Looking at specific categories of abuse and neglect, there were increases across all four sub-categories over the past two years; there has been a 54% increase in neglect, a 48% rise in emotional or verbal abuse, a 33% increase in physical abuse, and a 12% rise in sexual abuse.”
NRS makes more than 100,000 connections to help youth in crisis through a hotline and operates a national communication system for runaway and homeless youth on behalf of the Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). Highlights from the report:
• 57% of the youth who connected with the National Runaway Safeline in 2017 were still at home.
• 68% of youth in crisis who contacted NRS survived through support of friends/relatives.
• Over the past 5 years, crisis connections with younger youth has increased
• Black or African Americans make up a larger proportion of youth in crisis connecting to NRS (23%) than their proportion in the general youth population according to the Current Population Survey (14%).
• Over the past 10 years, there was a 42% increase in youth who contacted NRS while they were still at home
• There was a 100% increase in youth connections who reported that they were surviving on the sex industry over the past 10 years.
• NRS has continued to see more crisis connections about abuse and neglect (65% increases in the last 5 years), a trend that NRS has highlighted in a number of past reports as well.
• In 2017, the two largest groups of youth in crisis served by NRS were youth facing an issue or problem other than running away from home and youth contemplating running away from home, for a combined 70% of connections.
• 33% of youth contacting NRS site family dynamics as the primary reason for their outreach.
• Youth reporting experiencing abuse and/or neglect at home has exponentially increased over the past 5 years (65%).
• The report reveals an increase in the number of youth contacting NRS for support while still living at home; and an overall increase in the number of youth living on the streets reaching out for crisis intervention. In addition, 85% of youth who contact NRS are 18 years of age or younger, with the average age being 17.
The definition of runaway used by NRS is a simplified version of the definition from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of a runaway episode as one that meets any one of the following criteria:
• A child leaves home without permission and stays away overnight.
• A child 14 years old or younger (or older and mentally incompetent) who is away from home chooses not to come home when expected to and stays away overnight.
• A child 15 years old or older who is away from home chooses not to come home and stays away two nights.
The OJJDP defines a throwaway episode (referred to as youth asked to leave home throughout this report and in all subsequent communications) as one that meets either of the following criteria:
• A child is asked or told to leave home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.
• A child who is away from home is prevented from returning home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.