Primary Sources: How 'Social Networks' Affect Homeless Youths' Inclination to Get Help Finding Jobs

Social Networks as the Context for Understanding Employment Services Utilization Among Homeless Youth.” Anamika Barman-Adhikari and Eric Rice. Journal of Evaluation and Program Planning, Vol . 45. (August 2014)

What it’s about: Researchers from California State University and the University of Southern California wanted to know how much homeless youths’ friends and acquaintances influence their use of employment services, such as training, tutoring and placement programs.

Researchers Barman-Adhikari and Rice surveyed 138 homeless Los Angeles youth ages 15 to 21 using an online questionnaire and face-to-face interviews. In the interviews, youth described 10 people they had interacted with in the past 30 days. They discussed which of the 10 people could be counted on to lend them money, give them food, or provide a place to stay, and which they could count on for emotional support.

Why read it: Becoming gainfully employed helps homeless youth form their identities, connects them to conventional institutions such as employers and banks, provides income that could lead to self-sufficiency, and reduces their chances of engaging in risky behaviors such as panhandling and exchanging sex for money, shelter or food. Looking at social context, in addition to young people's personal motivation and attitudes, can paint a clearer picture of what circumstances encourage and discourage youth from using employment services.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: Barman-Adhikari and Rice’s classification of participants as homeless youth includes “not only those living on the streets and in shelters but also those living in motels or with family and friends because of economic hardship.” Fifty-six percent of the youth were “literally homeless” (sleeping on the street, in a shelter, or in a hotel or motel) and the rest were temporarily housed with friends or family or “couch surfing.”  

Barman-Adhikari and Rice found that a little less than half of the homeless youth in the study (47.4 percent) had used employment services at the drop-in center within the past 30 days. The likelihood that youth would use these services varied according to several circumstances:

  • Youth who were in some form of temporary housing were 2.4 times more likely to use employment services than youth who were “literally homeless.”
  • Youth who reported receiving resources like food, money and shelter from home-based friends were 4 times more likely to use employment services than those who did not.
  • Youth who reported receiving food, money, or shelter or emotional support from case workers were 2.9 times more likely to use employment services.

Barman-Adhikari and Rice cite previous studies that suggest emotional support from street peers reduces depressive symptoms, while receiving support in the form of money, food or a place to stay actually increased depressive symptoms.

Indeed, when they looked at the influence of peers living on the street, Barman-Adhikari and Rice found that youth who reported receiving money, food or other instrumental resources from these peers were 86 percent less likely to use employment services. On the other hand, those who received emotional support from street peers were 6.4 times more likely to use employment services.

Based on these results, it’s clear that the social context in which homeless youth find themselves is relevant to understanding whether they make use of employment services. According to this study, youth workers are a vital resource for some homeless youth, and they often act as supportive adult mentors. Providing emotional and other resources can go a long way toward encouraging homeless young people to use employment services.

Additional references: Look for more articles on homeless youth and employment in NCFY’s research library.

To learn about applying attachment theory to build better relationships between shelter workers and homeless youth, read the California Homeless Youth Project’s “Relationships Beget Relationships: Why Understanding Attachment Theory is Crucial to Program Design for Homeless Youth.”

NCFY offers several resources about social networks and employment for homeless youth including the research articles “Understanding Social Networks Among Homeless Youth,” “Peer Outreach Programs Provide a Stepping Stone to Future Employment” and “What Stands in the Way of Homeless Youths' Employment?

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

Primary Sources: Learning How Service Providers and Policy Makers Can Help LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Out on the Street: a Public Health and Policy Agenda for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless” (abstract). Alex S. Keuroghlian, Derri Shtasel and Ellen L. Bassuk. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 84, No. 1, 2014.

What it’s about: Alex Keuroghlian, Derri Shtasel and Ellen Bassuk of Harvard Medical School wanted to know more about how to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning homeless youth. The researchers reviewed 44 studies to determine directions for research, public policy and practice.

Why read it: Researchers have estimated that a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth are homeless. Taking stock of research on this group of young people will help advocates and service providers to determine the best ways to reduce the likelihood that LGBTQ youth will become homeless.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: Studies show that homeless LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for mental health and substance abuse problems, as well as for getting HIV and becoming victims of violence. Research also indicates that different groups within the LGBTQ population (lesbians, gay men, bisexual men, and so on) have different needs depending on factors such as age, sex, gender identification, location and behavior. For example, lesbian runaways are more likely to have been abused by caretakers, while gay or bisexual young men are more likely to have engaged in high-risk substance use and sexual behaviors. Transgender youth are at particular risk for violence and sexual assault, and misplacement in shelters by sex rather than gender identity, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Reports imply that interventions to help LGBTQ youth need to address specific subgroups rather than treating "LGBTQ" (and other iterations of the term) as homogenous labels. Unfortunately, many service providers don’t have the knowledge to do this adequately.

Keuroghlian, Shtasel and Bassuk suggest that youth-serving organizations train their staff about the needs of LGBTQ youth and how not to discriminate. Staff should also be trained to screen for sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender identity, mental health and substance use. Understanding these practices will help them refer young people for specific services if they need them, such as HIV risk management and substance abuse treatment for gay and bisexual young men, or post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for lesbians who have experienced assault. The authors recommend that organizations also change their policies to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ youth.

Turning to public policy, the authors say further efforts against homelessness should include evidence-based and community-informed practices focused on LGBTQ youth.

Additional references: Look for more articles about LGBTQ youth in NCFY’s research library.

Serving Our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Services Providers Working With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless or at Risk of Becoming Homeless” (PDF, 1.84MB), published in 2012, provides a national snapshot of the programs for LGBTQ youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

NCFY’s “Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth With Open Arms” looks at how family- and youth-serving organizations can best support LGBTQ youth.

Research Roundup: How Can Schools Become Supportive Places for LGBTQ Students?

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people—but it’s a bigger problem for some teens and young adults than others. A growing body of research about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth has found that they are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to think about, attempt, or commit suicide, largely due to bullying and harassment.

One factor that has been found to reduce LGBTQ teens’ risk of mental illness and suicide, and about which we’ve written a lot, is supportive families. Another is supportive school environments, with gay-straight alliances, zero tolerance bullying policies, and teachers and staff who know how to prevent harassment and get LGBTQ youth the support and mental health services they need.

Support at School Matters

Though studies have found that LGBTQ youth who report greater school connectedness and school safety also report lower suicidal ideation (thoughts about taking one’s life) and fewer suicide attempts, most of these have been based on self-report surveys.

Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Michelle Birkett, Aimee Van Wagenen and Ilan H. Meyer, from Columbia University, Northwestern University and University of California, Los Angeles, wanted to investigate the association using more objective data.

Hatzenbuehler and his colleagues decided to look at the connection between where teens live and their risk for suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts.

For information on whether states and cities had positive school climates—for example, with safe spaces and gay-straight alliances—they turned to the 2010 School Health Profile Survey, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For information about the incidence of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts among LGBTQ youth, they turned to the 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Surveys from eight states and cities. These surveys track a range of health issues among high school students over the years.

LGBTQ students living in states and cities with more protective school climates reported having had fewer suicidal thoughts than those living in states and cities with less protective climates. In fact, the states and cities with the best school climates showed almost no disparity between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ teens when it came to suicidal thoughts.

But it Takes Effort

In Seattle, the public school system has taken the research on LGBTQ youth and schools to heart and put in place policies and programs that aim to increase safety, family involvement, and student achievement for LGBTQ youth.

Pamela Hillard, Lisa Love, Heather M. Franks, B.A. Laris and Karin K. Coyle, from the Seattle Public Schools Health Education Office and ETR Associates, a research firm, wanted to find out how much bullying and harassment the students witnessed or experienced at school—and whether teachers intervened. In other words, were the strong district policies and programs aimed at reducing LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools making a difference?

With funding from the CDC, Hillard and her colleagues surveyed 107 students in gay-straight alliance groups, or GSAs, at 13 schools. They also held focus groups with 154 students, some of whom were in GSAs and some not.

Among members of GSAs, LGBTQ students were significantly more likely than non-LGBTQ students to have been harassed. Students said teachers were most likely to deal with verbal harassment by stopping it and explaining why it is wrong. Teachers intervened in cases of physical harassment by trying to stop it.

Students noted that some teachers did a good job of stopping bullying in its tracks. Others did nothing to stop it.

Students in the focus groups said teachers could step in more effectively by taking these, and other, steps:

  • Address the problem immediately.
  • Use consistent and strong responses.
  • Explain why the words or actions were offensive.
  • Involve parents.
  • Involve the principal.
  • Have stricter consequences for inappropriate behavior.

GSA students also said talking about bullying and harassment as part of the school curriculum was a good way to combat bullying.

And Health Workers Need More Training to Be Part of the Solution

If teachers are part of the solution, so are school health professionals. But how well prepared are school nurses, counselors and social workers to meet the needs of LGBTQ students? To answer that question,  Inas Mahdi, Jenn Jevertson, Ronald Schrader, Anna Nelson and Mary M. Ramos, from the University of New Mexico and several other institutions, analyzed data from a survey of 183 people at a New Mexico school health conference.

They found that social workers (84.6%) and counselors (81.5%) were more likely than school nurses (55.8%) to say they had moderate or high knowledge of the health risks LGBTQ youth face, including higher rates of suicide and depression compared to their peers.

Many of the professionals didn’t know how to help, either. About half of school counselors and social workers said they knew little or nothing about LGBTQ community-based organizations that could help teens. Many didn’t know a counselor experienced with LGBTQ concerns to whom they could refer students.

What’s needed, Mahdi and her colleagues write, is better training of school health professionals. Schools, they say, could cover specific LGBTQ health risks and health disparities in trainings on bullying, violence, cultural competency, and suicide prevention.

Read the articles

“Protective School Climates and Reduced Risk for Suicide Ideation in Sexual Minority Youths” (abstract). American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 104, No. 2 (February 2014).

“‘They Were Only Joking’”: Efforts to Decrease LGBTQ Bullying and Harassment in Seattle Public Schools.” Journal of School Health, Vol. 84, No. 1 (January 2014).

“Survey of New Mexico School Health Professionals Regarding Preparedness to Support Sexual Minority Students.” Journal of School Health, Vol. 84, No. 1 (January 2014).

Find more articles about LGBTQ youth in our literature database. Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families.

Primary Sources: Do Socioeconomic Factors Contribute to Teen Pregnancy?

“Socioeconomic Disadvantage as a Social Determinant of Teen Childbearing in the U.S.” Ana Penman-Aguilar, Marion Carter, M. Christine Snead, and Athena P. Kourtis. Public Health Reports, Vol. 128, Supplement 1 (March-April 2013).

What it’s about: Ana Penman-Aguilar, Marion Carter, M. Christine Snead, and Athena P. Kourtis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to investigate the research that has been done on socioeconomic influences on teen childbearing. They searched electronic databases for articles published from January 1995 to November 2011. “Socioeconomic factors” included the teen or her parents’ educational attainment, the financial and material resources of the teen’s community, and family members' income, wealth, and occupations.

In the end, the authors included 12 peer-reviewed, quantitative research articles in their study. They analyzed the studies, ranked them for quality using the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, assessed for bias, and synthesized the findings.

Why read it: A better understanding of the root causes of teen childbearing could help social service providers design programs that prevent teen pregnancy and improve adolescent sexual health.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: The authors found that families’ socioeconomic factors at various levels influenced whether or not young women gave birth as teens.

At the individual level: One study found that teen girls were more likely to become teen moms when they had low socioeconomic status combined with individual characteristics such as being more aggressive.

Another study, which used data from 8,223 teen women enrolled in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, a nationally representative cohort study of students who were in eighth grade in 1988, found differences among teens of different races. White and Hispanic teens who had dropped out were more likely to give birth. That association didn’t hold true for African American teens.

In the context of the family: Looking at the context of the teens’ parents, another study found that Hispanic and white teens whose parents had lower education levels were more likely to have given birth. On the other hand, another study finds, the more education parents had, the less likely teens were to have sex, get pregnant, and give birth.  

Hispanic teens whose families had higher socioeconomic status were less likely to give birth. But African American teens whose families had higher socioeconomic status were more likely to give birth—unless they went to private school.

At the community level: Studies that looked at community-level socioeconomic influences found that lower per capita income, higher income inequality, and higher numbers of people living below the poverty level contributed to higher teen birth rates.

One study suggested that for metropolitan African American teens, living in segregated neighborhoods may influence teen birth rates more than poverty.

White teens, but not African American or Hispanic teens, who went to a school with more resources were less likely to give birth.

The authors write:

The findings of this review suggest that unfavorable socioeconomic conditions experienced at the community and family levels affect teens' sexual health behaviors and, in turn, contribute to the high number of teen births in the U.S. One theory is that, unlike their more advantaged counterparts, disadvantaged young women may not perceive early childbearing as an obstacle to a bright future; indeed, they may perceive it as one of few viable paths to adulthood. It is worth noting that the findings of some studies have challenged this theory, including one study in our review.

They recommend further research into socioeconomic influences on teen birth, particularly studies that look at factors at more than one level—individual, peer, family, community, school, policy—and among teens of specific races and ethnicities.

Additional references: Look for more articles about teen pregnancy and parenthood in NCFY’s research library.

A recent NCFY slideshow looks at why teen pregnancy has become a bigger problem in rural areas than in cities and suburbs.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families.

Homeless With Homework: An Introduction to Homeless Education

The National Center for Homeless Education offers an 18-minute video tutorial "Homeless with Homework: An Introduction to Homeless Education" that provides information on the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. The tutorial is a great resource for new youth workers, educational liaisons and agency staff that need a refresher in understanding the causes of homelessness and resulting educational barriers. The video also shares additional ways that viewers can support the education of homeless students.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

New Campaign Invites Latino Men to Get the Word Out About Ending Domestic Violence

The National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities has launched a campaign to teach men and boys the important role they play in ending domestic violence.

"Te Invito" ("I invite you") uses the unscripted words of Latino men to speak directly to other Latino men about why they should be involved in ending domestic violence. The campaign toolkit includes posters, videos and other materials that you can download and customize if you want to join the campaign and invite Latino men to participate in your prevention efforts.

To customize and use the video PSAs for your own work, contact products@casadeesperanza.org. A media kit can help you spread the word to the press.

For more information about engaging young men in ending domestic violence and changing attitudes about masculinity, check out these NCFY articles:

"Help Young Men Fight Violence"

"‘Act Like a Man’: Challenging Young Men’s Notions of Masculinity to Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy"

"Primary Sources: What Are Young Men Thinking When They Commit Partner Violence?"

"Q&A: Educating Young Men as a Way to End Commercial Sexual Exploitation"

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

Primary Sources: How Much Responsibility Do Teen Dads Accept for Their Partners' Pregnancies?

Becoming Teen Fathers: Stories of Teen Pregnancy, Responsibility, and Masculinity” (abstract). Jennifer Beggs Weber. Gender & Society, Vol. 26, No. 6 (December 2012).

What it’s about: Jennifer Beggs Weber, of University of Missouri, Columbia, interviewed 26 teen fathers living in a Midwest city with higher than average teen birth rates. She wanted to find out how much responsibility young dads accepted for their partners' pregnancy.

Why read it: Teen fathers face the stigma of being a teen parent. They're also subject to gender norms that can influence their behavior, such as deciding to have unprotected sex. Weber writes that sexual health and teen pregnancy prevention programs don’t typically acknowledge these structural and cultural influences, instead framing teen pregnancy as a woman’s problem. Understanding how gender roles can impact teen boys’ decisionmaking can provide youth workers with more tools to prevent both first-time and subsequent teen pregnancy.

Biggest take away for family and youth workers: Weber found that 22 of the teen fathers interviewed blamed the mother for the pregnancy, while four blamed parents, a doctor or circumstance, like a broken condom. While none of the men took responsibility for his role in the pregnancy, Weber highlights how gender norms about masculinity influenced the teens’ decisionmaking, simultaneously informing their identity development and reinforcing stigma.

“It’s just one of those things where you just wanna have sex,” 16-year-old Brian told Weber, after saying the pregnancy was an accident. “You’re not thinking of anything else . . . I mean . . . I’m a guy, you know . . ."

While the teen fathers’ responses varied, where they placed blame did not, Weber writes. Some said the mother wasn’t on birth control, but they didn’t consider using a condom, either because they didn’t like them or that birth control wasn’t a man’s responsibility. A few of the teen fathers said they didn’t use a condom because they were in love or felt especially committed to the mother.

When it came to explaining the pregnancy and the teem fathers' role in it, Weber notes that there was no difference based on the race and socioeconomic level of the participants, though those factors have played a role in her other research on teen fathers.

Weber writes that masculinity norms could be translated into assets, serving as a valuable resource for young men as they construct their identities and strive to be viewed as "good" men. Youth workers could draw on this finding by linking teen fathers with positive male role models.

Additional resources: Read more about teen parenthood in our digital library. For example, to discover more about young fathers’ perspectives on parenthood, read Perceived Fatherhood Roles and Parenting Behaviors Among African American Teen Fathers.

For more resources, visit the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, a federal effort to provide resources for communities and programs that encourage and support involving fathers.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families.

Q&A: Helping Dads See Their Positive Impact on Teens' Sexual Health

When it comes to who most influences teens’ decisions about sex, a growing body of research says parents are No. 1.

Multiple studies have specifically examined mothers’ influence on teen risk behaviors, such as having sex at an early age or not using contraceptives. Fewer studies have attempted to tease out the role of dads, says Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, professor of social work and global public health at New York University and co-director of The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health.

Guilamo-Ramos and his colleagues have set out to learn more about the impact fathers have on their children’s sexual health. We talked to him about his research and the idea that, as he puts it, “fathers matter” when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

NCFY: What have you learned about the influence dads have on teens’ sexual health and behavior? What do dads do, or not do, that makes a difference positively or negatively?

Guilamo-Ramos: Both mothers and fathers contribute to teen's decisions about sex. But increasingly, there’s recognition that fathers have a unique influence. It’s not the case that what fathers do is the same as what moms do. It’s different.

When we have focused on fathers, there’s been a lot of focus on what I would call structural factors: whether or not the father is in the home and or whether or not the father is economically supporting his child.

Those things are important. But there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve learned that is, I think, really exciting and that is particularly important given that many fathers of color may be underemployed or they may be unemployed.

Fathers can shape important outcomes through three basic mechanisms. One, through their communication with their adolescent children. So we know that the kinds of communication fathers have with their adolescent children matter, that it can shape their decision making.

We also know that fathers can monitor and supervise, and that they can play an important role in providing some structure in their teen’s life—in particular by setting clear expectations, following up to make sure the expectations are being adhered to, and then being consistent in terms of mutually agreed upon consequences.

Fathers also [play a role] through their relationship with their teens, through their teens perceiving them as being involved, the teen seeing some level of responsiveness--“Dad is available when I need him”--and the teen feeling some level of closeness or warmth and feeling that dad really loves me, cares about me.

NCFY: How is paternal influence different than that of moms or other adults in young people’s lives?

Guilamo-Ramos: We’re still learning more about that. What we can say is, clearly, when it comes to whether a teen becomes sexually active, fathers matter independent of maternal influence.

When fathers communicate [with their teens] about disapproval of too-early sexually active behavior, that they expect them to protect themselves and have plans for avoiding STIs or STDs. When fathers are involved in setting expectations about common goals for the future, about doing well and staying in school. When fathers are also clear about rules. Those are some of the ways that fathers matter.

NCFY: What can youth workers do to help dads have a positive influence on their kids’ sexual health?

Guilamo-Ramos: The first thing is for youth workers to involve fathers and to see fathers as having something that is unique and in addition to--not in lieu of--the mom. Engaging fathers, letting them know they play an important role, and letting dads know that even if they are not able to provide in ways that traditionally their role has been defined. If they’re not able to maintain that relationship with their child’s mom for whatever reason, if they’re not able to provide the level of economic support that they would like to provide or that is needed, they still can play an important role in the teen’s life. Through talking to their teens and being involved in their teens’ lives, they can actually help their teens to grow up and avoid problem behavior.

Find resources for parents on The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health website.

FYSB Seeks Applicants for Domestic Human Trafficking Demonstration Projects

The Family and Youth Services Bureau announces the availability of funding for approximately three 24-month cooperative agreements to implement demonstration projects that will build and sustain coordinated services for domestic victims of severe forms of human trafficking in partnership with allied professionals in community-based organizations, such as runaway and homeless youth, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking victim services programs. FYSB is particularly interested in applicants with experience serving victims of human trafficking in communities with evidence of high rates of human trafficking.

Awarded programs will support the provision of victim-centered services for United States citizens and lawful permanent resident victims of severe forms of trafficking regardless of age. Programs will implement the following activities: 1) Develop, expand, and strengthen victim service programs; 2) Facilitate communication and coordination between the providers of assistance to United States citizen and lawful permanent resident victims; 3) Provide a means to identify such providers; and 4) Provide a means to make referrals to programs for which United States citizen and lawful permanent resident victims are already eligible, including programs administered by the Department of Justice and elsewhere within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Letter of Intent Due Date:  07/14/2014

Application Due Date:  08/11/2014

Read the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Focusing on Outcomes for Youth

Publication Year: 
2014
Smiling diverse young people under the title, focusing on outcomes for youth

Whether you work with youth on the street, in an emergency shelter or in a transitional living program, you know from experience that young people need a lot of support and guidance to reach their goals. “Focusing on Outcomes for Youth” aims to help you get provide that support. It describes the practical steps a number of community-based organizations have taken to keep young people safe, improve their social and emotional wellbeing, help them develop permanent connections to supportive adults and build their self-sufficiency.

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