Primary Sources: Can Nurses Help Runaway Girls Reduce Their Risky Behavior?

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Photograph of a nurse with a teen girl.

“Restoring Healthy Developmental Trajectories for Sexually Exploited Young Runaway Girls: Fostering Protective Factors and Reducing Risk Behaviors” (abstract). Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 46, Issue 2 (February 2012).

What it's about: The authors of this study evaluate the Minnesota Runaway Intervention Program using data and from the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey. RIP aims to help runaway 12- to 15-year-old girls who have experienced physical or sexual abuse work towards a positive path for their lives, overcome trauma, and improve their health and ability to cope. Trained nurses visited the girls at home to restore family connectedness and provide case management, healthcare and health education. The girls could also choose to attend a weekly girls’ empowerment group with a psychotherapist.

Why read it: Many homeless, street-involved youth have experienced some form of abuse—physical, sexual, or both. Their histories of abuse may put them at higher risk for having mental health, drug or alcohol problems. But protective factors and supports, such as feeling connected to school, family and friends can reduce the likelihood that homeless youth will use drugs or alcohol, have risky sex or be involved with violence.

Biggest take away for youth workers: After 6 months, RIP girls were more connected to their families than they had been at the start of the study. They also had higher self-esteem and were less likely to have risky sex or use drugs or alcohol. After a year, girls in the program had greater aspirations for their education than they had at the beginning. The gains they made in the first six months, with higher self-esteem and fewer risky behaviors, also remained at the end of a year.

The study showed that this intervention may work better with older adolescents who are more cognitively mature and for those youth who have at least some resources or protective factors.

Additional reference: Read more information about the Runaway Intervention Program.

(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 this and other publications.)

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