October 01, 2014

Washington News Brief: Runaway and Homeless Youth

A bipartisan bill to prevent trafficking of runaway and homeless youth is ready for a full Senate vote after approval Sept. 18 by a 15-3 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee. S. 2646, sponsored by committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which funds outreach, basic shelter and transitional living programs for homeless youth. “This year marks the 40th anniversary of this act,” Leahy said during the markup, “but despite four decades of work on this issue, there are still approximately 1.6 million homeless teens in the United States, and nearly 39 percent of the nation’s homeless population is under the age of 18.” He noted that more than 250 organizations from across the country have expressed support for S. 2646 and that it is “critical we provide these vulnerable kids with the resources and support they need.” Provisions include extending the maximum stay in a Basic Center Shelter from 21 to 30 days and revising the Transitional Living Grant Program to require information and counseling services in basic life skills to be age, gender and linguistically appropriate. The bill also would authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to public agencies to provide street-based services to street youth and runaway and homeless youth who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, sexual abuse, violence, trafficking in persons or sexual exploitation. The ABA has policy supporting increased funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and has numerous policies supporting efforts to prevent trafficking of children, including screening and risk assessment for trafficking victimization whenever a youth enters a runaway or homeless youth facility, the juvenile justice system or a child welfare agency.

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