Primary Sources: Adding to the Evidence Base of What Works to Help Homeless Youth

Photograph of a family hugging.

"A Family Intervention to Reduce Sexual Behavior, Substance Use, and Delinquency Among Newly Homeless Youth." Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 50, No. 4, April 2012.

What it’s about: Support to Reunite, Involve and Value Each Other, or STRIVE, is a five-session, in-home program that aims to repair homeless youths’ relationships with their families. Researchers wanted to see how well the intervention worked at keeping homeless 12- to 17-year-olds from having risky sex, using drugs and getting in trouble with the law. Each STRIVE session uses cognitive-behavioral theories, which help families learn better problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.

Why read it: Researchers have found a number of programs, curricula and practices that improve the education, employment, family relationships and health of at-risk youth in general. But few studies have specifically investigated the effectiveness of these interventions when used with homeless youth. This study adds to the small but growing list of “evidence-based” interventions proven to work well with homeless youth.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Compared to a control group, youth who participated in STRIVE had fewer sex partners, were less likely to use hard drugs, drank less and got into less trouble with the law for at least a year after the sessions ended. The study was limited to families that were only moderately dysfunctional, however. Youth in the study couldn’t be away from home for longer than six months and had to have the option of moving home. Young people in the study also couldn’t be under the influence of drugs, have an untreated mental health condition, or suffer from ongoing abuse or neglect. Nonetheless, the authors see their results as a good start and an indication that other ways of engaging the parents of homeless youth could have long-term benefits.

Additional reference: View this recent PowerPoint presentation from a webinar by the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Center for American Progress to learn about another family intervention specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, the Family Therapy Intervention Pilot. The issue brief "Reconnecting At-Risk and Homeless LGBTQ Youth with Family" also describes this intervention, which is set to be evaluated in November of this year.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.)

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