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State Highlights

Some areas where South Dakota has moved the needle relative to other states include preventing homeless youth’s contact 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 allows youth in foster care to access extended foster care services to age 21 under limited circumstances.
  • State law provides youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights.
  • The state allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own.

Systems

Systems

  • There is a current state plan to end homelessness that contains a youth-specific strategy component.

Environment

Environment

  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in child welfare programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement in the Mount Rushmore State across each category. Laws authorizing comprehensive supports and services for youth experiencing homelessness, addressing their educational needs, and protecting the rights and interests of 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.
  • Reduce opportunities for contact between youth experiencing homelessness and the criminal and juvenile justice systems by declassifying running away as a status or delinquent offense.
  • Allow shelters to take in youth experiencing homelessness with a delay or waiver of notification requirements. 
  • Implement a grievance process for students experiencing homelessness that complies with federal law and allow students to earn partial and alternative school credits.

Systems

Systems

  • Create a state entity - such as an Office of Homeless Youth Services -  that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.
  • Create an Interagency Council on Homelessness that mirrors the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), providing a multi-sectoral approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

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.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in juvenile justice and runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 
  • Ban controversial and ineffective service provision that includes conversion therapy.

 

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