Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee,
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the
importance of programs serving youth and to express the Administration's strong support for reauthorization of the Runaway
and Homeless Youth Act. I would particularly like to thank Chairman Castle, Mr.
Greenwood and other members of the Subcommittee for the leadership you have demonstrated
by introducing H.R. 1150, the Juvenile Crime Control and Delinquency Prevention Act, which
includes provisions to strengthen and reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. It
is my understanding that H.R. 1150 is identical to H.R. 1818, which passed the House of
Representatives with bipartisan support in the last Congress. As you know, Secretary
Shalala wrote to the Subcommittee in June 1997, expressing the Department's support for the enactment of the title of the H.R.
1818 addressing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
Unfortunately, although both the House and the Senate passed bills to reauthorize the
Act during the last Congress, time ran out before a final bill could be enacted.
Therefore, we hope that this year, marking the 25th anniversary of the Runaway
and Homeless Youth program, we will be able to continue a tradition of bipartisan support
and enact final reauthorizing legislation.
It is estimated that between 500,000 and 1.5 million children and youth run away from
home each year. A 1988 study estimated that over 127,000 children were "thrownaways"
children who had been told to leave the house,
abandoned, or prevented from returning home. Many youth are leaving homes affected by
abuse, neglect, substance abuse, mental illness, or other family problems.
To help meet the needs of these very vulnerable youth, the Runaway and Homeless Youth
Act authorizes three grant programs: the Basic Center Program, which provides
temporary emergency shelter to runaway youth, while working to reunite them with their
families when possible; the Transitional Living Program, which provides longer-term
residential, educational and vocational services to homeless youth to enable them to
develop the skills they need to become self-sufficient young adults; and the Street
Outreach Program, which reaches out to young people on the streets to protect them
from sexual abuse or exploitation and to help connect them to needed services and
community supports. In fiscal year 1998, these three programs together served about 75,000
youth. Over 20,000 of these youth reported that they had experienced physical abuse with
their households. About 9,000 reported sexual abuse while at home and 14,000 reported
being neglected. Forty-seven percent of the youth reported that a household member was
abusing alcohol or drugs. Thirteen percent of the youth reported that they had attempted
The programs and support systems authorized by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act serve
as a critical lifeline to youth and their families. They provide a safe place to turn in
times of crisis and they offer the services, training, skills and, most importantly, the
positive support youth need to help them make the transition to healthy, productive lives
I would like to share a couple of stories that illustrate the importance of youth
- In Los Angeles, I visited the Los Angeles Youth Network, which operates a shelter
program, a drop-in center and an aftercare program for youth transitioning out of their
other programs. At the drop-in center, I met Shandra, a very mature 15 year old. Shandra
had been a very good student and was involved with student government and other school
activities. But she told me that "my mom and I
just were not getting along, so I ran away." She
came to the Los Angeles Youth Network, where they worked with her and her mother, allowing
her to return home. Shandra said they helped her focus, provided support, helped her to
gain a sense of personal responsibility for her life and helped her and her mom to get
- In Texas, I met the Director of the Central Texas Youth Service Bureau who told me about
another young woman. She had run away from home at the age of 14 due to physical and
sexual abuse and had found her way to their shelter for runaway youth. The shelter
provided her with needed services, but then lost contact after she left their facility.
Six years later, this young woman appeared at the shelter Director's office and introduced herself. She reported that
she had just graduated from nursing school and was getting married. She said she owed her
life to the agency; if it had not been for their shelter and the caring staff, she
probably would be dead.
We know that runaway and homeless youth programs make a real difference in the lives of
young people. Recognizing the importance of these programs, the President's budget for fiscal year 2000 proposes to increase
funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act's
Transitional Living Program by 33 percent. This proposal, along with several initiatives
to expand supports to youth aging out of the foster care system, is part of our overall
effort to assist vulnerable youth in making a successful passage to adulthood. Assuring
swift reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act is another key step in
fulfilling our commitment to youth.
I would now like to take a few moments to provide more information on the programs and
services authorized by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and administered by the Family
and Youth Services Bureau, within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.
The Basic Center Program: The Basic Center Program funds youth shelters that
provide emergency shelter for up to 15 days, as well as food, clothing, outreach services,
and crisis intervention for runaway and homeless youth. The shelters offer services to
help reunite youth with their families, whenever possible. Our most recent data show that
approximately 60 percent of youth served by these programs are able to be reunited with
their families or guardians. When this cannot be safely accomplished, shelters help youth
to locate alternative secure living arrangements with relatives, friends or in foster
The FY 1998 appropriation of $43.6 million supported more than 370 basic center
projects across the country. Grantees, most of which are community-based organizations,
receive an average grant of approximately $104,000 per year for a three-year period. Each
federal dollar leverages, on average, more than two dollars for services to this
The Transitional Living Program: The Transitional Living Program (TLP)
addresses the longer-term needs of homeless older youth. The program makes grants to
community-based organizations to help homeless youth ages 16 - 21 to make a successful
transition to self-sufficient adulthood by giving them the tools they need to live
independently. The programs provide youth with a supervised place to live for up to 18
months, life skills training (such as how to budget, balance a checkbook, find an
apartment or apply for a job), vocational training, and other support services. The TLP
allows youth to complete their education, learn practical skills, and develop positive
relationships with mentors and peers, while living in a safe and supported environment. In
this way, the program helps young people to become healthy, productive, self-sufficient
adults, avoiding the risks of continued homelessness, long-term dependency on government
aid or social services, or involvement with the criminal justice system.
A recent survey of transitional living programs found that 78 percent of young people
participating in TLP programs were employed either part- or full-time, 74 percent of youth
were discharged to stable housing at the completion of the program, and, six months after
completing participation in the program, 78 percent remained free of all direct government
In FY 1998, an appropriation of $14.9 million enabled the Department to support over 75
TLP projects at an average of $181,000 per year for a three-year period. As I noted
earlier, the President has proposed a 33 percent increase for this critically important
and successful program, which would bring the appropriation in FY 2000 up to approximately
Street Outreach Program: The Street Outreach Program (or more formally the
Education and Prevention Grant to Reduce Sexual Abuse of Runaway, Homeless, and Street
Youth) was enacted as part of the Violence Against Women Act of the Violent Crime Control
and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The purpose of this program is to provide street-based
outreach and education, including treatment, counseling, and provision of information and
referral for services to runaway, homeless and street youth who have been subjected to
sexual abuse or are at risk of such abuse.
Today, the dangers facing youth on the street are greater than ever -- violence, drug
abuse, sexual exploitation, as well as health risks unheard of 25 years ago, like AIDS and
new antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis. Service providers I have met have all
emphasized the importance of reaching kids on the street as quickly as possible, before
they have spent more than 2 months on the streets. After this point, there is a greater
risk of losing them permanently to the dangers of the street.
Street outreach grantees offer services on the street during the hours young people
tend to be out, including late afternoons, evenings, nights, and weekends. The programs
use staff whose genders, ethnicities, and life experiences are similar to those of the
young people to be served. street outreach grantees provide services from a youth
development perspective and they involve youth in the design, operation and evaluation of
the program. These grantees are also required to coordinate with state or local sexual
assault coalitions or other agencies providing services to youth who have been or are at
risk of being sexually assaulted or exploited.
The FY 1998 funding of $15 million for the street outreach program funded 138 grantees
with experience in providing services to runaway, homeless, and street youth.
National Support Systems for Youth: In addition to the three grant programs,
the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act authorizes funds for a number of support activities.
- The National Runaway Switchboard is a national communications system designed to
assist runaway youth and their families by linking them to crisis counseling, programs and
resources, and each other, as appropriate. The goal for the system is to ensure that young
people in crisis have one central place to turn to for information on the help available
to them. The switchboard typically responds to more than 12,500 calls a month. To ensure
access to all youth in need, the Switchboard has operators who are bilingual in Spanish
and English. The switchboard also has access to AT&T's
language line translation services, which can provide translation services for many
languages that may not be spoken by switchboard operators. In addition, there is a special
line for helping hearing-impaired youth to access the switchboard's services. The switchboard handles a wide range of
calls, from counseling youth who are thinking of running away, to assisting youth who have
run away from home find a safe place to go to get off the streets. The switchboard also
assists parents who are worried about their teenage children's behavior. Switchboard operators can help a parent
to figure out how to talk to their children and where to get more help in resolving family
- The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth serves as a central information
source on youth and family policy and practice. The clearinghouse disseminates information
to grantees and the public, helps the Family and Youth Services Bureau to organize
critical-issue forums that bring together grantees and other experts on issues affecting
youth, and assists in outreach and networking to other agencies and organizations working
- The Regional Training and Technical Assistance Network is a coordinated group of
organizations, one in each of the 10 federal regions, that provides training and technical
assistance to local grantees. The training and technical assistance providers organize
regional and state-level conferences and workshops for grantees, provide on-site
consultation and offer telephone consultation in order to assist grantees to provide
well-managed, effective services for runaway, homeless and street youth.
Finally, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act provides support for much-needed data
collection, evaluation, research and demonstration activities. These activities improve
our understanding of the needs and characteristics of runaway and homeless youth and help
us to develop effective interventions for assuring positive outcomes for these youth.
And, as we all recognize, assuring positive outcomes for our youth today is by no means
easy. The Carnegie Report on Adolescent Development stressed that there has been an
erosion of traditional support systems and neighborhood networks. It concluded, "Young adults from all economic strata [now] find
themselves alone in communities where there are few adults to turn to, and no safe places
to go." The programs authorized by the Runaway
and Homeless Youth Act assure that for some of the youth most at risk, those who have
runaway or been pushed out of their homes, youth who are now sleeping in doorways or under
bridges or hanging out in bus stations waiting to get thrown out, there will be a safe
place to go with a caring adult.
In closing, I would like to emphasize how important I think it is that you are focusing
on supporting youth. As commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and
Families, I have responsibility for overseeing a range of programs, including Head Start,
child care and child welfare. I feel very strongly that we must provide a continuum of
services to ensure that we are supporting our children every step of the way. The early
years are critical we know that and must
continue to invest in early childhood but we
must also stick with kids as they grow older. Children are like gardens: it is critical
that we prepare the soil and plant the seeds. But if that is all we do, we should
not be surprised if they do not flourish. We have to pay attention to them on an ongoing
basis. Just as one would fertilize a garden, we must stimulate growth in young people.
Just as one would weed a garden, we must root out the negative influences, peer pressure
and self-doubt that threaten to stunt the positive development of our children. Especially
during pre-adolescence and adolescence, we must have continued youth development
activities to provide something to which young people can say "yes"
instead of just asking them to say "no"to risky behaviors.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act supports organizations across the country which help
youth to do just that. On behalf of the Administration, I thank you for holding today's hearing. We look forward to working with you to
enact bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, so that we
may ensure that these programs continue to meet the needs of youth across the country. I
would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.