Current Research

RHYTTAC is committed to identifying and sharing the latest research impacting runaway and homeless youth and RHY service providers. These links will be frequently updated, so please be sure to check back to stay abreast of the latest research in RHY and youth-related fields. If you have a request for information or literature reviews on a specific topic, please contact RHYTTAC at [email protected].

Effect of trauma-informed care on hair cortisol concentration in youth welfare staff and client physical aggression towards staff: results of a longitudinal study 
Released January 7, 2020

This is the abstract for the open access article.  The full PDF can be downloaded here.

Professional caregivers working in child and youth welfare institutions are frequently faced with the complex mental health issues, emotional needs and challenging coping strategies of clients with cumulated traumatic experiences, leaving them prone to developing high levels of stress, burn-out and compassion fatigue. Trauma-informed care (TIC) is a milieu-therapeutic approach that aims to promote the self-efficacy and self-care of youth welfare staff by guiding them to a better understanding of their own and their clients’ stress symptoms and countertransference. Despite increasing efforts to implement TIC practices, and more widespread recognition of their value in youth welfare systems, there is a lack of studies evaluating the effectiveness of this approach. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of TIC practices in youth welfare institutions on both the physiological stress of staff members and clients’ physical aggression towards their caregivers.

Data was obtained from a longitudinal study investigating the effectiveness of TIC in 14 residential youth welfare institutions. Our sample consisted of 47 youth welfare employees (66.0% female) aged from 23 to 60 years (M = 37.4, SD = 10.4 years). Hair cortisol concentration (HCC) and occurrences of client physical aggression were assessed at four annual measurement time points (T1 to T4).

Participants in five institutions employing TIC practices (intervention group) showed significantly lower HCC at T4 than staff members from institutions who did not receive training in TIC (control group), indicating reduced physiological stress levels. At T4, the intervention group reported significantly less physical aggression than the control group.

TIC might be a promising approach for reducing the emotional burden of employees and institutions should invest in training their staff in TIC practices. More research is necessary, to investigate the benefits and efficacy of TIC, both to youths and staff members, and to foster a better understanding of which specific factors may contribute to stress reduction.

Missed Opportunities: Evidence on Interventions for Addressing Youth Homelessness
To effectively address youth homelessness, policy makers and human service providers need research-based evidence to guide their decisions. New report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Missed Opportunities: Evidence on Interventions for Addressing Youth Homelessness, summarizes what experts learned from a rigorous synthesis of research evidence on youth homelessness programs and practices. This report looks at what interventions prevent youth homelessness, what programs reduce duration and effects of homelessness, and what efforts promote sustainable improvements in youth well-being. Some findings show hopeful signs and potential among key programs, but we still lack the insight needed to determine how to use resources most efficiently. By increasing investment in well-designed evaluations, we can identify and implement solutions that will bring youth homelessness to an end more quickly.

This resource is eighth in a series of research briefs on understanding and addressing youth homelessness. Prior briefs and resources may be found at

Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America
Released November 15, 2017

This is the executive summary from Voices of Youth Count. You may access the full report here.

Missed Opportunities: National Estimates provides Congress with new foundational evidence for understanding the scale, scope, and urgency of youth homelessness in America.

Voices of Youth Count will bring forward more evidence in the months to come. Look for Research-to-Impact briefs related to trajectories into homelessness, the dynamics between interactions with systems like child welfare and youth homelessness, synthesis of the evidence regarding interventions to address youth homelessness, and deep explorations of the experiences faced by specific subgroups of young people.

Beyond the findings, Voices of Youth Count will offer implications and recommendations intended to focus the attention of Congress on existing policy opportunities—like the RHYA and others—that might be leveraged to make change. Recommendations are intended to be the beginning of a dialogue about tangible changes to the nation’s laws, regulations, and programs, not an end point. In each brief, Voices of Youth Count will speak to the evidence while seeking solutions.

No more missed opportunities.

Services to Domestic Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking: Opportunities for Engagement and Support
Abstract: Human trafficking of young people is a social problem of growing concern. This paper reports selected findings from an evaluation of three programs serving domestic minor victims of human trafficking. Participants in this study were funded to identify and serve male and female victims of sex or labor trafficking who were less than 18 years old and were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Programs provided case management and comprehensive services, either directly or through community collaboration. Evaluation data included data on client characteristics, service needs and services delivered; key informant interviews with program staff and partner agencies; and case narrative interviews in which program staff provided in-depth descriptions of clients’ histories. All clients served were known or believed to be sex trafficked. The majority of clients needed crisis intervention, safety planning, educational support, mental health services, and employment services. Although they were diverse in terms of demographics and circumstances, two common patterns were of homeless young people exchanging sex to meet survival needs and young people [who] were emotionally engaged with their trafficker. Key findings include the diversity of trafficked minors, the challenge of initial and continued engagement with service delivery, the structural and resource barriers to long-term support for young people, and the potential contribution of programs specifically addressing trafficked minors. A framework linking services to young people’s circumstances and outcome areas is proposed.

Deborah A. Gibbs, Jennifer L. Hardison Walters, Alexandra Lutnick, Shari Miller, and Marianne Kluckman
Gibbs, D. A., Hardison Walters, J. L., Lutnick, A., Miller, S., & Kluckman, M. (2015, July). Services to domestic minor victims of sex trafficking: Opportunities for engagement and support. Children and Youth Services Review, 54, 1–7.

Sex in the (Non) City: Teen Childbearing in Rural America
The National Campaign just released this study of teen pregnancy in rural areas throughout the country.

Brief description from the website: Despite remarkable progress in reducing teen pregnancy and birth rates, many have wondered about particular segments of the population compare[d] to others on rates of early pregnancy and childbearing. In particular, how do teen births compare in rural versus urban areas? In an effort to address this question, in 2013 The National Campaign released a first of its kind analysis of teen childbearing in rural America. Our analysis showed that, in 2010 (the most recent data available by county), the teen birth rate in rural counties was nearly one-third higher compared to rates in the rest of the country, and rates in rural areas have been falling more slowly than rates in non-rural areas. This follow-up report focuses specifically on explaining the why behind the high rates of teen births in rural areas.

To access more information and additional resources, click the following link:

Ng, A. S., & Kaye, K. (2015). Sex in the (non) city: Teen childbearing in rural America. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Understanding the Organization, Operation, and Victimization Process of Labor Trafficking in the United States
Colleen Owens, Meredith Dank, Justin Breaux, Isela Bañuelos, Amy Farrell, Rebecca Pfeffer, Katie Bright, Ryan Heitsmith, and Jack McDevitt

The National Institute of Justice just released a report from research completed by the Urban Institute ( and Northeastern University exploring labor trafficking in the United States.
Brief description from the website:

This study chronicles the experiences of labor trafficking victims from the point of recruitment for work, their forced labor victimization, their attempts to escape and get help, and their efforts to seek justice through civil or criminal cases. The report finds that legal loopholes and lax enforcement enable labor traffickers to commit crimes against workers in major US industries: agriculture, domestic work, hotels, restaurants, and construction. Interview and case file data detail the ubiquity of trafficking, which occurs both in plain sight and behind lock and key. Detailed recommendations propose next steps for policy and practice.

Owens, C., Dank, M., Breaux, J., Bañuelos, I., Farrell, A., Pfeffer, R., . . . McDevitt, J. (2014, October). Understanding the organization, operation, and victimization process of labor trafficking in the United States. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

UNICEF: Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children
United Nations Children’s Fund - This UNICEF report highlights data from 190 countries on the various forms of violence against children. This 206-page report discusses physical, sexual, peer-to-peer, and adolescent violence, and much more. Linked to report with permission.

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2014, September). Hidden in plain sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children. New York: Author.

Data Trends: Treating Young People With Co-Occurring Disorders: What Works?
L. Kris Gowen
The Summer 2014 issue of Focal Point, a research review publication from the Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures, highlights issues related to co-occurring disorders and young adults. This particular article highlights two approaches to working with young adults with co-occurring disorders.
Gowen, L. K. (2014, Summer). Treating young people with co-occurring disorders: What works? Focal Point, 28, 3–4.

Development, Testing, and Use of a Valid and Reliable Assessment Tool for Urban American Indian/Alaska Native Youth Programming Using Culturally Appropriate Methodologies
L. Kris Gowen, Abby Bandurraga, Pauline Jivanjee, Terry Cross, and Barbara J. Friesen
This is an article from the Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

Abstract: This article documents how culturally appropriate research methods were used to develop and construct a valid and reliable assessment tool to measure program outcomes in an agency providing services to urban American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youths and families. The tool was developed to provide a psychometrically sound way to assess Native youths’ progress toward culturally defined indicators of youth success. Assessment data collected are simultaneously used to evaluate the effectiveness of social services in ways that are meaningful to this AI/AN community, researchers, and potential funders. This research establishes a foundation and framework for creating assessment tools in other AI/AN-specific agencies.

Gowen, L. K., Bandurraga, A., Jivanjee, P., Cross, T., & Friesen, B. J. (2012, May). Development, testing, and use of a valid and reliable assessment tool for urban American Indian/Alaska native youth programming using culturally appropriate methodologies. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 21(2), 77–94.

Street Outreach Program Data Collection Project – Executive Summary
Released October 22, 2014

This is the executive summary from the SOP Data Collection Project. Once the full report is released, RHYTTAC will add it to this entry.

Brief description: From March 2013 through September 2013, 656 young people who were experiencing homelessness between the ages of 14-21 were interviewed for the project. This summary provides a portrait of the homeless young people in areas served by 11 SOP grantees. Although the sample is not nationally representative, the data provide detailed information about the experiences and service needs of the 656 street youth from around the country who participated in the project. The intent is that data from the project will be used to inform service design to better meet the needs of street youth who obtain and access services through street outreach programs.

HUD’s Housing for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care: A Review of the Literature and Program Typology
Released October 22, 2014

Amy Dworsky, Keri-Nicole Dillman, M. Robin Dion, Brandon Coffee-Borden, and Miriam Rosenau

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released this report examining the research and literature on various factors related to housing for youth aging out of foster care. RHYTTAC hopes you find the information in this report helpful in your work with young people experiencing homelessness.

Here is a brief overview: Most young people in the United States are experiencing an increasingly prolonged transition to adulthood. It is no longer assumed that they will automatically become self-sufficient adults on their 18th or even 21st birthdays (Arnett 2000; Wight, Xhau, Aratani, Schwarz, and Thampi 2010; Setterstein and Ray 2010). Rather, young people are gradually taking on the roles and responsibilities traditionally associated with adulthood while they acquire the education and work experience needed to become economically independent (Berlin, Furstenberg, and Waters 2010).

In this document, we summarize what is known about the housing needs and outcomes common to young people who age out of foster care. We explore the current landscape of programs and resources available to assist such young adults with housing. In the first section, we review the literature on the characteristics of the young people, their risk of homelessness, and the barriers they face in securing stable housing, along with relevant federal and, to a lesser extent, state policies. In the second section, we describe a wide range of housing programs for young people aging out of foster care, present a program typology, and conclude with the identification of a small group of innovative housing programs that may warrant closer exploration.

Dworsky, A., Dillman, K-N., Dion, M. R., Coffee-Borden, B., & Rosenau. M. (2012, April). Housing for youth aging out of foster care: A review of the literature and program typology. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development & Research.

Weeding Out the Information: An Ethnographic Approach to Exploring How Young People Make Sense of the Evidence on Cannabis
Barbara M. Moffat, Emily K. Jenkins, and Joy L. Johnson
The following article was published in the Harm Reduction Journal in 2013.

Brief excerpt from the abstract: Contradictory evidence on cannabis adds to the climate of confusion regarding the health harms related to use. This is particularly true for young people as they encounter and make sense of opposing information on cannabis. Knowledge translation (KT) is in part focused on ensuring that knowledge users have access to and understand best evidence; yet, little attention has focused on the processes youth use to weigh scientific evidence. There is growing interest in how KT efforts can involve knowledge users in shaping the delivery of youth-focused public health messages. To date, the youth voice has been largely absent from the creation of public health messages on cannabis.
This study demonstrates the feasibility of involving young people in knowledge translation initiatives that target peers. Youth participants demonstrated that they were capable of reading scientific literature and had the capacity to engage in the creation of evidence-informed public health messages on cannabis that resonate with young people. Rather than simply being the target of KT messages, they embraced the opportunity to engage in dialogue focused on cannabis.

Moffat, B. M., Jenkins, E. K., & Johnson, J. L. (2013, November). Weeding out the information: An ethnographic approach to exploring how young people make sense of the evidence on cannabis. Harm Reduction Journal, 10(34). doi:10.1186/1477-7517-10-34

Social Connections Can Help to Reduce Depression
Rick Nauert

Earlier this season, Psych Central published this linked article about the correlation between social connections and the decrease in depressive symptoms. The links embedded in the article lead to further resources on the topic.

Permission was given to RHYTTAC to link to this article.
Nauert, R. (2014). Social connections can help to reduce depression. Psych Central. Retrieved from

Young People in Recovery: Building a Movement
Colette Kimball

While historically there have been few resources specifically tailored to the unique needs of youth in recovery, this is starting to change. Adults, families, youth, schools, community programs, and researchers are beginning to work together to create the support systems necessary to help youth sustain their recovery.

Kimball, C. (2012, December). Young people in recovery: Building a movement. The Prevention Researcher, 19(Supp.), 3–5.

“Well, If You Can’t Smile You Should Go Home!” Experiences and Reflective Insights on Providing Outreach to Young Sex Trade Workers
Kennedy Saldanha and Derek Parenteau

Abstract: This case study relates experiences and candid reflections of front-line staff in the STAND program (Street Trade Alternatives and New Directions) providing outreach to young sex trade workers in downtown Toronto. The authors describe how this project came to be and the lessons learned in setting it up and providing services to this vulnerable, very hard to reach but resilient population. Through a sharing of tales and narratives of outreach, the authors corroborate some of the reasons why there is much written on outreach but little specifically about reaching out to sex trade workers. The traditional responses and approaches in working with children and youth are also questioned in light of negotiating power, building relationships, and actively waiting for the client to lead the change process.

Saldanha, K., & Parenteau, D. (2013, August). “Well, if you can’t smile you should go home!” Experiences and reflective insights on providing outreach to young sex trade workers. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(8) pp. 1276–1283).

Supported Education as a Vital Route to Competitive Employment
Jonathan Delman and Marsha Langer Ellison

This Focal Point article explores the connection between the evidence-based practice of supported employment and support education for transition-age youth with mental health conditions.

Delman, J., & Ellison, M. L. (2013). Supported education as a vital route to competitive employment. Focal Point: Youth, Young Adults, & Mental Health, Education & Employment, 27(1), 26–28.

Similar articles can be found at the Pathways to Positive Futures website:

Street Youth More Likely to Trade Sex for Food, Shelter If They Were Abused as Children
Danielle Schwartz, Carolyn James, and Trevor Hart

Research led by Ryerson University suggests street youth who have been sexually abused as children tend to trade sex for basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Schwartz, D., James, C., & Hart, T. (2013, January). Street youth more likely to trade sex for food, shelter if they were abused as children. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Ryerson University.

The Heterogeneity of Homeless Youth in America: Examining Typologies
Paul A. Toro, Tegan M. Lesperance, and Jordan M. Braciszewski

The Homelessness Research Institute, the research and education arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, published an article by Paul Toro and colleagues about homeless youth. It explains the various typologies used for categorizing homeless youth and the implications on services with this three-category typology.

Toro, P. A., Lesperance, T. M., & Braciszewski, J. M. (2011, September). The heterogeneity of homeless youth in America: Examining typologies. Washington, DC: Homelessness Research Institute.

Behavioral Health Services for People Who Are Homeless
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Part of SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) series, this document is developed for practitioners, administrators, and so on, to inform and transform practice, specifically in the area of behavioral health services for individuals who are homeless. The document is divided into three parts: 1. A Practical Guide for the Provision of Behavioral Health Services; 2. An Implementation Guide for Behavioral Health Program Administrators; and 3. A Review of the Literature

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2013). Behavioral health services for people who are homeless (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 55. HHS Publication No. [SMA] 13-4734). Rockville, MD: Author.

Focal Point Summer Issue 2011
Focal Point is produced by the Pathways Research and Training Center (RTC) at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. This issue includes a focus on healthy relationships.