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State Highlights

Some areas where West Virginia has moved the needle relative to other states include providing unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness the opportunity to seek legal independence and to access critical supports and services.

Law and Policy

Law & Policy

  • The state allows youth in foster care to access extended foster care services to age 21 under some circumstances and allows eligible youth who have exited the foster care system after 18 to re-enter care until age 20.
  • State law provides partial or full contract rights for homeless youth.
  • The state allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage without parental consent.

Systems

Systems

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

Environment

Environment

  • The state requires training about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, healthy sexual, development or issues specific to LGBTQ+ youth for staff working in RHY Systems.
  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in child welfare and runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement throughout the metrics for the Mountain State, with emphasis on the Law & Policy and Environment categories. Laws authorizing comprehensive supports and services for youth experiencing homelessness, preventing homeless youth’s contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, and protecting the rights and interests of 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 state law that allows youth in need of supervision to receive services without court involvement.
  • Declassify running away as a status or delinquent offense.
  • Allow shelters to take in youth experiencing homelessness with a delay or waiver of notification requirements. 
  • Allow partial and alternative school credit accrual for youth experiencing homelessness.

Systems

Systems

  • As part of the state plan to prevent and end youth homelessness, include a strategy to address homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
  • 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.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in juvenile justice 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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