Wednesday, September 7, 2016

RHY Policy - History in Brief

Late 1960s and 1970s - the first runaway youth shelters in the U.S. were created to assist youth in returning home. 

1974 - Congress passed the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) ActTitle III of that act was the Runaway Youth Act, which  decriminalized runaway youth and authorized $10M in funding for programs to provide shelter, counseling, and other services outside the juvenile justice system.  

1977 - the Runaway Youth Act was revised and renamed the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Act to acknowledge a new group of “throwaway” youth; youth who were pushed out of their homes, abandoned by parents, or left home for life on the street with their parents’ knowledge and consent.  Although the 1977 act continued to stress family reunification, it acknowledged that both youth and their families needed extensive services for reunification to be successfully accomplished.   

Throughout the 1980s, the number of throwaway youth continued to increase. Shelters reported that these youth exhibited multiple psychological and behavioral problems and came from families characterized by parental substance abuse, family violence, child maltreatment, long-term family conflict, and dysfunctional parents (many of whom had severe psychological and behavioral problems of their own). 

1983 - a Supreme Court decision banned the practice of detaining runaways as a dependency status offense, as was the practice in Oregon, often in adult criminal facilities.  States were required to revise detention criteria for juveniles and fund alternativesThe practice of placing runaways in detention has not ended, however.

1986 - Congress passed the Independent Living Initiatives Program Legislation to provide programs in out-of-home care to youth through age 21. 

1987 - the Oregon Legislature appropriated $500,000 to the (former) State Children and Youth Services Commission, primarily to comply with the 1983 court decision. Counties were expected to use the funds to serve RHY, but mostly they were spent on  alternatives to detention for criminal youth offenders, the majority of whom were males. 

During the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, Oregon’s policies towards RHY were shaped to comply with federal mandates and by two major state reform efforts:  HB 2004 (1993) and SB 1 (1995).

1993 - HB 2004 created the Oregon Commission on Children and Families (OCCF) as part of a comprehensive planning process to address the needs of all children, and to provide supports for children as early as possible to prevent them from entering the child welfare system.  OCCF which was further defined by SB 555 in 1999.

1995 - SB 1 separated juvenile delinquency from dependency services to deal with the state’s most violent juvenile offenders, but runaway and homeless youth were largely absent from the debate. However, as a practical matter, SB 1 relieved counties from the need to provide shelter care and services in order to divert dependency status offenders (including RHY) from the juvenile justice system.  This came at a time when DHS/Children’s Services Division was “drawing the line” between their responsibility and the community/county’s responsibility at “Level 7 youth”, which were youth ages 13 to 17 deemed as out of parental control and/or at-risk for child abuse or neglect, alcohol and drug use/abuse - a classification covering many RHY.  In short, in DHS's view, children over 12 were the counties responsibility.  Unfortunately, the Legislature, believing that community-based services would cost less, allocated less than half of what it had previously to OCCF for youth programs

Also in 1995, the federal Social Services Block Grant (Title XX) began to include funding for “youth investment” for supports/skills for children/youth from birth to age 17 and their families, including RHY.

1999 - Congress enacted the Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children Act, which allowed for emergency shelter, food and clothing, medical assistance, counseling, and referrals to health care and educational systems.  

2003 - the Oregon House Committee on Health and Human Services recommended the formation of the Oregon Homeless and Runaway Youth Work Group (OHRYWG), led by the Oregon Homeless and Runaway Youth Coalition (OHRYC), OCCF and DHS/CAF.

February 2005 - OHRYWG, “From Out of the Shadows: Shedding Light on Oregon’s Homeless and Runaway Youth” - defined RHY as homeless youth, 21 or younger: 

“Runaway youth” have left their homes or alternative care placements or remained away without permission for a long period of time and have little or no connection with their families or caretakers. “Throwaway youth” have been pushed out of their homes, abandoned by their parents, or have left home for the streets with their parents’ knowledge and consent. “Homeless youth” lack a stable place of residence, having been away from home for six months or more; lack adult supervision, guidance, and care; or have little likelihood of reunification with parents.  

2005 - HB 2202, recognizing that 

Oregon lacks a comprehensive policy for systematically addressing the issues and needs of runaway and homeless youth and their families; and...communities have few options to hold families of runaway and homeless youth accountable; and...significant gaps exist in the availability and coordination of services for runaway and homeless youth,

designated the Oregon Commission on Children and Families (OCCF) as the lead agency in coordinating statewide planning for delivery of services to runaway and homeless youth and their families (RHY Program), and directed OCCF to report back by January 1 2007.

2006 - League of Women Voters of Oregon, “Oregon’s Homeless Youth” (a paper often cited, but web links to it are all bad).

HB 2202’s Partners for Children and Families (PCF) Subcommittee defined RHY as:  

non-system youth (youth not being served by or ineligible for publicly funded human services) or youth, ages 11-24, who have fallen out of state systems of care, including juvenile justice, child welfare, education, mental health and substance abuse. 

2007 - the Legislature appropriated $1M to OCCF’s 2007-09 budget to enhance, expand, or develop services and supports for previously unserved runaway and/or homeless youth under age 18. The funding was used to roll out pilot projects in eight counties across the state.  The RFP identified the target population as “youth ages 11-17 at high risk for being separated from their families, have been abandoned, have run away, and/or are experiencing homelessness.”  

2011 - HB 3260 (amending ORS 417.799) transferred all duties, functions and powers of OCCF relating to coordination and delivery of services to runaway and homeless youth and their families (RHY Program) to DHS.  Around this time, Marion/Polk Counties’ RHY system looked something like this.  

2012 - responsibility for the RHY Program was integrated into the Office of Child Welfare Programs and assigned to the Child Well Being Unit. 

2013 - the Legislature allocated additional funding ($750,000) to DHS to assist in the expansion of the RHY Program.  (See OACP’s 10 RHY programs here.)

June 2014 - DHS discontinued the 2007 pilot project contracts and distributed the funding along with the newly allocated resources through a competitive contracting process to a range of programs and services across the state.   

2015 - apparently in response to complaints from OACP members about DHS’s failure to execute its coordinating responsibilities with sufficient vigor, the Oregon legislature enacted HB 2232 (amending ORS 417.799) (Effective May 26, 2015) to add: 

The department shall appoint an advisory committee to advise the department with respect to policies and procedures to coordinate statewide planning for delivery of services to runaway and homeless youth and their families. The advisory committee shall meet with and advise the department on a regular basis, provide the department with information regarding the status of existing services and make recommendations for improvements and additional services.

HB 2232 also requires DHS to report by September 15 of each year to the interim legislative committees on child welfare regarding the status of the system of services and support for runaway and homeless youth developed by the department, and the advice and information provided by the advisory committee appointed by the department.  The committee became the Homeless and Runaway Youth Advisory Committee [DHS HRYAC])

August 2016 DHS HRYAC “ORHY - An Overview and Strategic Framework”  - States that “The 2015 Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to appoint a cross-system advisory group to coordinate statewide policy and planning for addressing the needs of runaway and homeless youth” and recommends that the legislature “Create a state Office of Runaway and Homeless Youth that is responsible and accountable for meeting the needs of runaway and homeless youth, ages 12-24”, supposedly based on focus group feedback that “without an agency with a primary focus on homeless youth, there is no accountability at the state level for meeting their needs.”  (ORS 417.799 provides that DHS “is responsible for coordinating statewide planning for delivery of services to runaway and homeless youth and their families.”)
September 2016 DHS "Child Welfare Report to the Legislature, ORS 417.99"
Other resources:
Presentation on The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, May 2016 

Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs, “Oregon Runaway and Homeless Youth Service Continuum”, 2016.

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