The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) has made great strides in its work toward the prevention of exploitation of runaway and homeless youth and the creation of programs to serve those youth, according to its 2021-22 National Impact Report.
The organization addresses systemic issues that lead to homelessness and trafficking among young people. In the 2021-22 calendar year, NN4Y supported 300 organizations for at-risk and homeless youth. The National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) includes 19 youths with lived experienced who help direct the nonprofit’s policy and evangelize its mission. This year that group added five youths with lived experience of sexual abuse and exploitation to better serve that population.
Executive Director Darla Bardine said the move was part of a larger effort to reach marginalized groups.
“We spent the last year expanding our work to better address prevention with a focus on youth who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC),” Bardine wrote in her director’s message in the report. “We focused on strategies targeted at system-involved youth, preventing sexual abuse and exploitation of youth, identified policy and program opportunities at the community, state and national levels, and increased the capacity of youth leaders, service providers, members and communities to more broadly prevent and end youth experiences of homelessness.”
NN4Y’s National Impact Report highlighted three areas in which the organization made progress this year:
Centering Youth Experts
The NYAC recruits young people who have experienced homelessness to work with policymakers to address the most pressing issues facing unsheltered youth. More than 35 members have been trained since the program’s inception to take an active role in crafting a policy advocacy plan, discussing federal policies that impacted their lives, and educating legislators about systemic issues.
This year, the NYAC helped NN4Y to do the following:
- Develop a trauma-informed online toolkit and webinar to train community-based organizations working with homeless youth
- Worked with youth leaders to develop a strategic initiative to address sexual abuse and exploitation using target programs and the following policy recommendations:
- Increased funding for outreach/drop-in centers
- Improved sexual abuse prevention and sexual education programming
- Investment in trauma-informed services and counseling
- Accessible, affordable housing and support services for children, youth, and families in vulnerable situations
- Increased access to affordable and safe early care
- Advised National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on how to work with youth with lived experience to improve practices and procedures
In addition, the group added five members with specific personal experiences with sexual abuse and exploitation as part of its efforts to better prevent the trafficking and abuse of minors.
Federal Policy Advocacy
One of the most impactful efforts NN4Y undertakes is federal policy advocacy. This year, that included:
- Called for updates to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking Prevention Act
- Helped to gain expanded access to Earned Income Tax Credit for youth experiencing homelessness and foster youth without children
- Worked with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the credit repair process for survivors of trafficking
In addition to its work at the national level, NN4Y offers on-the-ground support to community organizations to address the root causes of homelessness among youth. Working with service organizations, they help determine what gaps exist in the spectrum of services and build programming to address those needs.
In the last year, NN4Y worked in the following areas:
- Hosted a two-day forum with the American Bar Association to train youth service agencies
- Led to the formation of a legislative committee that now meets monthly to work for ongoing state policy change concerning youth homelessness
- Trained 25 members of the Philadelphia Coalition for Homeless Youth on strategic storytelling and provided support for a Take Action campaign, resulting in more than 450 messages sent to the city council urging action on youth homelessness
- Helped pass a state law that strengthened unaccompanied minors’ rights to healthcare services
- Supported the development of an action plan for strengthening youth voices
- Provided training to 360 Youth Services, addressed racial inequity, and helped create Overcoming Racial Bias in Prevention guidelines for Youth Action Board
- Worked with The Night Ministry to lobby Sen. Richard Durbin’s office to push for RHYTPA
- Conducted pilot youth count to determine resources supporting youth experiencing homelessness
- Trained service providers and youth advisory members on the use of youth count data in storytelling and meetings with policymakers to create a community plan
NN4Y also worked with providers in New York, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, and South Dakota to navigate Fair Housing Law issues when providing services to LGBTA+ youth, including issues relating to gender-affirming care.
“NN4Y is committed to ensuring that our work is driven directly by the priorities of young people,” Bardine said. “As we look toward 2023, know that we stand united with you in our commitment to continue transforming systems until every young person in America has a safe place to call home.”
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