Adolescent development is generally viewed as a gradual process that is guided by supportive adults, particularly family members. This focus shifts however, when we think about homeless youth and family becomes viewed as the ‘problem’, and youth are pushed to become ‘self-sufficient’. However, this oversimplifies the nature and composition of families and relationships. More importantly, it overlooks families as potential partners in working towards solutions to youth homelessness. Although approximately 2/3 of youth leave home due to family conflict and abuse, it cannot be assumed that all family members contribute to this dynamic, or that all relationships are irreconcilable. While it is not always possible or desirable to reunite some of the youth with their families, it is important to develop programs that aim to deal with and/or resolve conflicts with family when possible. Previous research suggests that youth who reunite with their families have more positive outcomes that those who do not, including in school, employment, self-esteem, criminal behaviour and family relationships. Developing programs for family reconnection should therefore be a central component of a systems-based, preventative approach to youth homelessness, where programs, services and service delivery systems are organized at every level.
Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Buccieri, K., Karabanow, J., & Marsolais, A. (Eds.), Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.