Conflict within the family is one of the most frequently cited reason young people experience homelessness. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, the conflict is often around their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Most service providers would agree, however, that family intervention (when deemed safe and appropriate) can be a successful way to address conflict and help reconnect young people with their families. While family intervention is a common practice among folks working with youth experiencing homelessness, there’s been little research conducted on the subject – until now.
The Urban Institute has released a new report to fill that knowledge gap. Through literary review and conversations with key individuals in the field, Family Interventions for Youth Experiencing or at Risk of Homelessness highlights several effective family intervention strategies and offers insight into what makes these strategies successful.
The report offers the following key takeaways:
- Service providers noted the importance of gaining parents’ trust, working with – not against – parents, and recognizing and addressing parents’ barriers to engagement (e.g., stress, multiple responsibilities).
- Key informants suggested that case plans may be more effective when developed in collaboration with families, youth, and the various service providers in their lives (e.g., education, child welfare, juvenile justice). They also noted that case plans should be driven by goals set by youth and their families.
- Effective interventions often combined several types of services, such as clinical services, case management, and parent training, all tailored to a youth’s needs.
- Service providers suggested that helping youth foster healthy relationships with supportive social networks, not just families, could build stability.
- Providers may want to allow for flexible intervention settings to make it easier for youth and families to attend multiple sessions. For example, providing sessions in the family home may facilitate participation even if the youth is no longer living there.
- Providers noted that successful family reunification and reconnection require supportive services even after youth and families reconnect. Several of the most rigorously evaluated interventions include frequent coaching and check-in calls with parents after reunification and continued services for youth.