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State Highlights

Some areas where Arkansas has moved the needle relative to other states include limiting contact by youth experiencing homelessness with the criminal and juvenile justice systems and providing unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness the opportunity to seek legal independence and live independently.

Law and Policy

Law & Policy

  • The state has extended foster care to age 21 in certain circumstances and allows young adults under 21 to opt back into services after exiting if needed. 
  • State law allows youth in need of care to receive services without court involvement.
  • State law does not specifically criminalize running away.
  • State law provides partial or full contract rights for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • The state allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own.

Systems

Systems

  • There is a state interagency council on homelessness.

Environment

Environment

  • None.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement across the metrics for the Natural State. Laws authorizing comprehensive supports and services for youth experiencing homelessness, addressing their educational needs, and protecting the rights and interests of vulnerable youth experiencing homelessness, including LGBTQ youth, should be prioritized.

Law and Policy

Law & Policy

  • Enact and fund a state law similar to the federal RHYA to provide key intervention and emergency services for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Enact a state law which allows shelters to take in homeless youth with a delay or waiver of notification requirements. 
  • Enact regulations which explicitly allow partial and alternative school credit accrual for homeless youth.

Systems

Systems

  • Create a comprehensive statewide plan to end homelessness that includes a strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness and LGBTQ youth homelessness. 
  • Create a state entity - such as an Office of Homeless Youth Services -  that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.

Environment

Environment

  • Organize and maintain a self-governing youth action board or council to inform youth homelessness policy within the state.
  • Require training about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, healthy sexual development, or issues specific to LGBTQ youth for staff working in runaway and homeless youth systems.
  • Ban controversial and ineffective service provision that includes conversion therapy.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in child welfare, juvenile justice, and runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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