Youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to report leaving home due to parental conflicts, including being “kicked out” of the house, abuse (physical, verbal, sexual, and other), parental neglect due to mental health problems, or parental substance use. Although many youth run from home to escape abusive situations, they may face similar circumstances on the street, where the likelihood of re-victimization is high.
Last Fall, NN4Y launched a new project in partnership with youth with lived experience of homelessness who have also experienced childhood sexual abuse and/or exploitation. The young leaders engaged in this project are working to create a trauma-informed care toolkit for youth service providers to work with survivors (coming out this summer). They are also working to develop policy recommendations to educate federal lawmakers and offer promising solutions to end childhood sexual abuse and youth homelessness. Their top three recommendations are:
- Access to affordable housing and supportive services for children, youth, and families in vulnerable situations, such as homelessness and poverty. Due to inadequate funding, just 1 in 6 children are eligible for childcare assistance — and 1 in 5 families with children are eligible for housing assistance. Stable housing enables young people and families to access the stability to achieve their education and employment goals. Additionally, high-quality child care benefits children directly by offering stable, nurturing environments that support children’s learning and well-being.
- Affordable and accessible childcare, so low-income parents have safe childcare options for children. Young parents experiencing homelessness and those living in poverty struggle to access affordable, high-quality childcare. The young survivors we worked with stated how they were not always comfortable with the person they left their children with, fearful of what they might do to their children. However, they had no choice but to leave their children so they could go to work to afford housing, food, and clothes for their children.
- Survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation should have immediate and ongoing access to mental health services and the opportunity to heal to prevent future experiences of exploitation. Research has shown the adverse long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse and/or exploitation and the likelihood of multiple episodes of victimization. To disrupt the possibility of a survivor being re-victimized, all survivors should have immediate and ongoing access to high-quality mental health services and the opportunity to heal.
Thanks to the generous support of the Oak Foundation, this project is helping to create a space for authentic youth engagement, supports the development of leadership among youth, and deepens young leaders’ ability to educate policymakers to reduce and prevent sexual abuse and exploitation of children in America.