Alone Without A Home:
STATE-BY-STATE REVIEW OF LAWS AFFECTING UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH
Each year, an estimated 1.6 million children and
youth (ages 12-17) experience homelessness without
a parent or guardian. These youth leave home for a
variety of reasons, including severe family conflict,
parental abuse or neglect, parental mental health
issues, or substance abuse. Prior to leaving home:
• 43% of homeless youth report being beaten
by a caretaker;
• 25% of homless youth have had caretakers
request sexual activity;
• 20% of homeless youth had conflicts with
their parents around their sexual orientation
which caused them to leave.
Whether runaway or throwaway, once on the street, unaccompanied homeless youth face numerous legal barriers that often complicate their attempts to meet the basic necessities of life on their own and prevent them from reaching out for assistance to state agencies and service providers that could otherwise help them.
Further complicating matters is that many
of these laws vary considerably from state to state, creating misinterpretations by service providers and mistaken avoidance of services on the part of homeless youth who may fear being taken into state custody or assume they will be turned away.
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