More Runaway Youth Look to Return Home During Summer Months

Jul 16, 2012, 08:00 ET from National Runaway Switchboard

National Runaway Switchboard's Home Free Program Reunites Youth with their Families, Offers Resources to Improve Situation at Home

CHICAGO, July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Runaway Switchboard (NRS), 24/7 hotline and online services for runaway, homeless and at-risk youth, handles more calls over the summer from youth looking to reunite with their families. Through NRS' Home Free program, in collaboration with Greyhound Lines, Inc., youth can obtain a free bus ticket home to their family and take the first step in dealing with the issues that triggered the runaway episode.


"We know that the program makes a significant impact on the lives of the people who use the service," said Maureen Blaha, NRS executive director.  "The Home Free program provided the crisis intervention and transportation support necessary to reunite 433 youth with their families in 2011 and more than 14,000 youth since the program's inception."

Jennifer Benoit-Bryan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois in Chicago, analyzed the call data that NRS obtained from youth looking to return home through the Home Free program and found the following trends:

  • Since 2005, more Home Free bus tickets have been issued in summer months.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of youth reported family conflict as a significant issue in 2011, which is an increase of 8 percent over the last six years.
  • The average age increased from 16.5 to 17.5 years old over the past five years.
  • Most of the youth crossed state lines (88 percent in 2005 to 91 percent in 2011).

To gain a broader understanding of the impact the Home Free program has on those it serves, Dr. Gary Harper, a professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Master of Public Health Program at DePaul University, followed up with 2011 program participants and their parents, and found that their situations improved after using the Home Free service.

  • Eighty-five percent of parents reported that the issues that led the youth to run away were somewhat, mostly or completely resolved within a month.
  • Most parents reported that their youth used alcohol or other substances less (68 percent), engaged in physical fights less (64 percent), and broke the law less (66 percent).
  • Seventy-seven percent of youth did not leave home again.

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SOURCE National Runaway Switchboard