NN4Y Statement on Passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act with provisions Reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

Today, Congress passed H.R. 6964, which reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and provides for a short-term reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). The bill will now go to the President for his signature.

The short-term reauthorization of RHYA does not include any programmatic updates, and authorizes a total of $152.42 million for all RHYA programs (the Basic Center Program, Transitional Living Program, and the Sexual Abuse Prevention Program (also known as the Street Outreach Program)).

The National Network for Youth is pleased that the important updates to the JJDPA have finally passed Congress after years of hard work. However, we are disappointed that Congress did not keep RHYA separate from JJDPA, and that its inclusion became a point of contention in efforts to pass JJDPA.

While RHYA was originally passed more than 40 years ago as a part of the JJDPA (as the Runaway Youth Act), the last time both bills were reauthorized together was in 1988. Since their initial passage in 1974 these bills have been funded through separate appropriations bills and administered by different federal agencies — because they were designed to serve two distinct, but related populations.

NN4Y has long supported separate stand-alone reauthorizations of JJDPA and RHYA. Since 2013, service providers, advocates, local communities, national coalitions, faith-based organizations, other stakeholders have worked together to develop comprehensive recommendations for reauthorizing RHYA on its own.

These recommendations would, among other updates:

  • Strengthen prevention efforts offered through the Street Outreach and Basic Center programs;
  • Enable Basic Center Programs to serve youth for 30 days, and Transitional Living Programs to serve youth through age 24;
  • Ensure trafficking in persons is prevented and victims are served through outreach, identification, prevention, referrals and reporting.

Over 350 national, state and local organizations are on record supporting reauthorization of RHYA through passage of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (H.R. 5339/S. 2571), which incorporates these recommendations.

Last year, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago released the results of the first-of-its kind national study on the incidence and prevalence of youth homelessness, which was mandated in the 2008 reauthorization of RHYA. Released as part of Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, this study showed that in a given year, a staggering 700,000 minors (aged 14 through 17) experienced homelessness on their own, and 3,500,000 young adults (aged 18 through 24) experienced some form of homelessness.

This short-term reauthorization of RHYA shows that Congress recognizes the importance of addressing youth and young adults who runaway, experience homelessness, or are victims of trafficking.

NN4Y, with the support of our members and allies, was able to improve the limited five year reauthorization that was included in earlier versions of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act that passed last year. The final version of H.R. 6964 authorizes $152.42 million for all RHYA programs, a higher authorization than was included in earlier versions of JJDPA . And by moving from a five year reauthorization to a one-time two year reauthorization, we have the opportunity to build on Congress’s commitment by passing a comprehensive five year reauthorization of RHYA in 2019.

“NN4Y looks forward to working closely with Congressional champions and sponsors of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (Senators Leahy and Collins and Congressman Yarmuth), runaway and homeless youth service providers and juvenile justice advocates, and the House Education & Workforce and Senate Judiciary committees to advance a full five year reauthorization of RHYA next year.” – Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth