Children and Youth Who Run Away from Substitute Care: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis

Title: Children and Youth Who Run Away from Substitute Care: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis
Authors: Byrne, Andrea M.
Date: 2012
Abstract: Many homeless youth come from foster homes, group homes, and other forms of substitute care. For young people in the child welfare system, elopement represents a major problem as it places them at risk for a number of troubling outcomes. Three studies were undertaken examining elopement among young people living in substitute care in Canada and the United States. The first study explored strengths and needs in a sample of 5,011 children and youth housed in a variety of substitute care settings including foster homes, group homes, residential treatment centres, emergency shelters, and juvenile justice facilities. Results indicated that needs, but not strengths, predicted running among children, while both needs and strengths predicted running among adolescents. Problems with school attendance, substance abuse, and delinquency also predicted running among both children and adolescents, with the exception of young children, for whom substance abuse was not a significant predictor. The second study explored the relationship between trauma, strengths, and elopement in a sample of 2,296 adolescents living in substitute care. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, school violence, and traumatic grief/separation were found to predict elopement. In addition, family violence and community violence predicted running among younger but not older adolescents. Educational strengths predicted a lower risk of running away for all adolescents, while well-being and relationship permanence predicted a lower risk of running among younger and older adolescents, respectively. The impact of strengths on the relationship between trauma and elopement was evaluated, with results suggesting that elopement was not predicted by an interaction between strengths and trauma. The third study was qualitative in nature and explored the perspectives of youth who had run away from substitute care at least once in their lifetime. Youth provided information about their experiences as well as suggestions designed to reduce the prevalence of running away among youth in substitute care. Findings for all three studies were discussed in relation to the literature with implications for research and prevention.
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