Online Program

A family reunification intervention for runaway/homeless youth: The home free program

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:50 p.m. - 1:10 p.m.

Gary W. Harper, PhD, MPH, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Donald Tyler, PhD, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Gordon Vance, ACSW, LCSW, National Runaway Safeline, Chicago, IL
Jennifer DiNicola, National Runaway Safeline, Chicago, IL
April Timmons, MA, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Given the critical role that family members play in promoting the health and well-being of runaway and homeless youth, the National Runaway Safeline created a family reunification intervention called the Home Free Program (HFP). This program provides crisis intervention services and a free bus ride back home, with the goal of reuniting runaway youth with their parent/legal guardian. This presentation will describe the three components of the HFP and present data from a mixed-methods evaluation of the HFP. Data from phone-based interviews with 107 parents/guardians whose children (ages 14-20) had run away from home and received the HFP will be presented. Qualitative data revealed changes in interactional patterns between parents and children related to physical reunification, clearer family expectations, increased communication, improved communication, and increased awareness of differing perspectives. Quantitative data revealed decreases in family conflict and increases in family expressiveness that did not vary across child's age or time spent homeless. Additional changes in family dynamics were revealed as well—73.5% of parents reported resolution of the initial conflict that lead to the runaway episode at the time of interview. Positive youth outcomes were also recorded, with decreases in runaway episodes, alcohol/substance use, unprotected sex, fighting and breaking the law. The findings from the HFP evaluation support comprehensive reviews of prior interventions for runaway/homeless youth that have demonstrated an array of positive outcomes from interventions that actively involve parents/family members and that work toward reunification of the youth with her/his family home after a bout of homelessness.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the three components of the Home Free Program. Explain the major findings of the Home Free Program evaluation. Discuss the implications of the evaluation findings for the development of future interventions for runaway/homeless youth.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Runaways

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been working with runaway/homeless youth both clinically and for research purposes for 20 years. I also have been the principal investigator of several studies over the past 20 years focused on evaluating community-based interventions.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.