Advancing Research on Youth Settings by Exploring Program Quality and Outcomes for Runaway/Homeless Youth
Funded by: WT Grant Foundation
Project dates: January 2014 - December 2017
Principal Investigator: Gwadz, Marya
Co-Investigator: Leonard, Noelle
Co-Investigator: Cleland, Charles

Runaway and homeless youth (RHY) experience high rates of trauma and abuse through the lifespan, but only minimal involvement in the settings and systems that typically protect youth such as school and family. This confluence of serious risk factors and absence of protective factors contributes to behavioral problems and poor outcomes among RHY. A network of specialized settings has developed to locate, engage, house, and treat RHY. Yet there is little research on which characteristics of these settings are the most effective, how settings can be improved, and what public policies are needed to support them.

The project used a mixed methods approach and focused on settings that serve RHY in New York State. The sample was comprised of 29 settings randomly selected to reflect the types of settings that serve RHY across New York State, including urban, suburban, and rural regions. Within settings, the project conducted observations of setting practices using a validated instrument (The Youth Program Quality Assessment), semi-structured in-depth interviews with program administrators and staff, anonymous structured surveys with RHY (N=450), and focus groups with RHY at 10 randomly selected settings.  The aims of the study were to: describe the diverse range of settings that serve RHY with respect to program quality; examine the impact of setting quality on RHYs’ outcomes in the domains of education/occupation, mental health, and substance use; explore factors that serve as facilitators of or barriers to settings’ effectiveness; elicit expert opinion on strategies to improve settings based on study findings; and disseminate findings nationally.  The study findings will help inform policy and improve services for RHY.

White Paper – The RHY Impact Study. Moving from Crisis to Independence: The Characteristics, Quality, and Impact of Specialized Settings for Runaway and Homeless Youth


Related Publications
Gwadz M, Freeman R, Leonard NR, Kutnick A, Silverman E, Ritchie A, Bolas J, Cleland CM, Tabac L, Hirsch M, Powlovich J (2019).
Understanding organizations serving runaway and homeless youth: A multi-setting, multi-perspective qualitative exploration
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 36 (2), 201-217. doi: 10.1007/s10560-018-0563-3. PMCID: PMC6456902.

Gwadz M, Freeman RM, Kutnick AH, Silverman E, Ritchie AS, Cleland CM, Leonard NR, Srinagesh A, Powlovich J, Bolas J (2018).
Do programs for runaway and homeless youth work? A qualitative exploration from the perspectives of youth clients in diverse settings
Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 112. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00112. PMCID: PMC5916963.

Leonard NR, Freeman R, Ritchie AS, Gwadz MV, Tabac L, Dickson VV, Cleland CM, Bolas J, Hirsch M (2017).
“Coming from the place of walking with the youth – that feeds everything”: A mixed methods case study of a runaway and homeless youth organization
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 34 (5), 443-459. doi: 10.1007/s10560-016-0483-z. PMCID: PMC6774622.

Gwadz MV, Cleland CM, Leonard NR, Bolas J, Ritchie AS, Tabac L, Freeman R, Silverman E, Kutnick A, Dickson VV, Hirsch M, Powlovich J (2017).
Understanding organizations for runaway and homeless youth: A multi-setting quantitative study of their characteristics and effects
Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 398-410. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.01.016.