What You Need to Know About: HHS’s Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH) Program

Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH) is the Children’s Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), multi-phase grant program to learn what works to prevent homelessness among Youth and Young Adults (YYA) with child welfare system involvement.


  • Phase 1: 18 organizations from 17 states received a two year (2013-2015) planning grant to conduct data analysis to understand the local population and develop a comprehensive services model to improve outcomes in housing, education and training, social well-being and permanent connections. Grantees include state and county child welfare agencies and community-based organizations.
  • Phase 2: 6 of the original 18 organizations received a three year (2015-2018) implementation grant to implement, refine and test the comprehensive service model developed during the planning phase.
  • Phase 3: If funded, this will involve documenting summative evaluations designed to add to the evidence base on how to support older youth with child welfare involvement and prevent homelessness

Target Population for all YARH Grantees: 


Homeless youth defined as:

  • Sleeping on the streets
  • Sleeping in shelters
  • Living in transitional housing
  • Couch surfing
  • Doubled-up with friends or family



Types of Child Welfare Data Utilized by Grantees

Data Analysis of Phase 1 Grantees Identified the Following Risk & Protective Factors:


  • Number of foster care placements
  • History of running away from placements
  • Group home placement
  • History of mental and behavioral health issues
  • Juvenile justice involvement
  • Substance use
  • “Aging out” of foster care
  • Being a pregnant or parenting teen


  • Placement with relatives
  • Exiting foster care to permanence (reunification or adoption)
  • High grade point average in high school
  • Enrollment in post-secondary education


Summary of What Phase 1 Grantees Learned About Data Sharing and Analysis:

  • The majority of grantees needed more time than originally planned to access and analyze the data.
  • Many Phase 1 grantees used the data analysis stage to fully engage with partner agencies and other stakeholders. These partnerships supported data sharing and better understanding about risk and protective factors for youth as well as supported productive discussion about interventions for YYA.
  • Child welfare agencies have the potential to collect much of the data they need in the longitudinal NYTD survey
  • Better collaboration around administrative data=sharing could improve information about the risk and protective factors for YYA in high-risk populations
  • Because educational experiences of children and youth are the foundation for adult employment and economic well-being, better information about education progress and child welfare experiences of child and youth could help identify how child welfare polices and practices could better support education.



Typical grantee and partner organization structure:

History of Collaboration with Partners:

Incorporation of youth perspectives into planning varied by grantee:

What did grantees learn?

  • Shared goals and buy-in were critical to forging new, expanding existing partnerships
    • 6 grantees forged new collaborations as a result of YARH, some examples include faith-based, LGBTQ organizations and local or state administrative agencies.
    • 9 grantees found YARH essential in helping them expand, mobilize or complement existing efforts to learn from peers in the field.
    • Others found that YARH changed existing partnerships by increasing the frequency of communication and deepening or changing partnership activities in a positive way.
  • Partnerships were often dependent on the decision makers leading organizations and government agencies and were impacted by staff turnover as well as shifting priorities of the different partners, which led to partners either shifting to or away from focusing on homelessness of YYA with child welfare involvement during the course of the grant.



Grantees conducted needs assessments to inform their comprehensive services models. The most common service gaps identified:

Grantees comprehensive service models included similar services- in particular independent living services and intensive case management:

Grantees also developed plans to evaluate their comprehensive service model in order to contribute to the existing body of evidence on what helps youth avoid homelessness.

  • Half discussed using randomized control trials (RTC).
  • 8 expressed ethical concerns about RCTs because the control group of young people would not received the planned services or logistical concerns about RCTs because of the potential for comparison group members to access comprehensive service model components.
  • A few grantees considered alternatives to randomization, among the alternatives considered include using matching designs to establish comparison groups.


Read the detailed report of Phase I.

Read a spotlight publication that summaries the high-level themes from the Phase 1 process report.

Only 6 of the original 18 grantees received a Phase 2 grant. The 12 grantees who did not continue to receive funding have different plans and abilities to sustain the work they identified was needed and had planned for. Learn more about their plans here. Save