Model Statutes and
Policies

About the Model State Statutes

The Model State Statutes: Youth and Young Adult Homelessness is a publication written in collaboration with the National Network for Youth, National Homelessness Law Center, SchoolHouse Connection, True Colors United, Community Legal Services Philadelphia, Arizona Legal Women and Youth Services, Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, and Homeless Persons Representation Project, with generous support from The Raikes Foundation and Baker McKenzie.

Over a period of two years, the authors and young people who have experienced homelessness gathered information about the on-the-ground experiences of unhoused youth, the intersectionality of systems these youth face, and the specific needs of the most vulnerable subpopulations of youth. This information was used to develop model laws that were then reviewed and edited by experts, practitioners, and more youth from across the country. What emerged from this collaborative effort—and is reflected in the models—is the foundational understanding and acknowledgement that youth are best served when they can exercise rights on their own behalf.

Access to Justice

Minor’s Right of Petition Act (p. 154)

  • “Any minor shall have the right to file a legal action, a public complaint, or a request for public records on their own behalf.”

 

Youth Access to Legal Services Act (p. 157)

  • “For unaccompanied homeless youth, many face daunting challenges when they become entangled in child welfare and family law court matters and have no right or reasonable avenue to securing an attorney that will advocate for their interest. These challenges become even more pronounced when youth who experience homelessness also encounter marginalization. The purpose of this statute is to provide youth with qualified and competent legal counsel.”

 

Consent for Services

Youth Access to Housing and Services to End Homelessness Act (p. 13)

  • “Street outreach program studies found that over half of unhoused youth who want to access shelter and services are told they are unavailable. As a result, the average unhoused young person spends nearly two years living on the street. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a number of harm-reduction measures that state legislatures can pass right away to alleviate this acute issue. Unaccompanied homeless youth need to be able to consent to emergency shelter and related services without the fear of being returned to abusive homes or being entangled in the child welfare or juvenile legal system.”

 

Emancipation of Minors Act (p. 16)

  • “[F]or youth who have demonstrated that they have the ability to manage their own finances and care, there should be an accessible process for emancipation. Of course, legal reform strategies for making shelter and some housing more accessible to unhoused youth are not by any means a substitute for the transformational strategy of expanding the infrastructure of affordable housing and increasing the availability of housing assistance so that all who need it can access it, by right.”

 

Right to Housing for Minors

  • “On the macro level, long-term advocacy efforts should focus on a universal right to housing and increasing appropriations for youth housing. In the short term, however, advocates can push for a state-level right to housing for minors. Prioritizing minors in the right to housing will benefit some families as well. Most importantly, it will ensure that any unaccompanied homeless youth has an affirmative right to housing, functionally ending homelessness for youth under age 18.”

Criminal Legal System

Functional Sentencing Act (p. 128)

  • “In recent decades, courts have begun to recognize that the criminal justice process is not appropriate to the remediation and rehabilitation goals our society has for young people and are reforming the justice system to better serve youths’ particular developmental needs. These new approaches focus on helping participants build strengths that help them avoid recidivism.”

Custodial Systems

Youth Access to Custodial Systems and Services Act (p. 49)

  • “Unfortunately, youth experiencing homelessness face persistent barriers to accessing child welfare services and supports, and youth who enter the custodial system experience high rates of homelessness when they exit the system.” This statute addresses the reasons why unhoused youth “may choose to not seek assistance from the child welfare system [including] narrow choices with respect to living situations in foster care; the system’s reputation for lack of safety, equity, and empowerment; fear of being separated from siblings; or concern about legal repercussions for parents or guardians.”

Education

Equitable Education Achievement Act (p. 99)

  • “Education is a critical but often overlooked strategy to address child and youth homelessness and prevent it from reoccurring in the future. In fact, recent research found that youth who do not complete a high school diploma or GED are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness as young adults than their peers who completed high school.” The purpose of this statute is to ensure that state education systems reflect the real challenges for students experiencing homelessness and that all students be given the opportunity to access higher education.

Employment

Youth Labor Standards Act (p. 70)

  • “Historically, young people have always been left behind in the employment sector, experiencing both the highest unemployment and disconnection rates. Many factors contribute to young people’s inability to attain adequate quality employment, including discrimination, social stigma, unnecessary barriers to access employment such as work permits, and inadequate access to resources such as childcare, public benefits, and health care. The purpose of this statute is to set forth the rights of individuals under age 18 to work for wages.”

 

Youth Access to Jobs Guarantee Act (p. 74)

  • “A job guarantee is an equitable remedy to the employment disparities that young people face in the private employment market, allowing young people who have traditionally been denied employment the ability to support themselves. As described in the model statute below, such a program would connect young people to gainful employment and support them in transitioning into the workforce and protect young workers from exploitation”, through oversight and legal protections.

Exiting Systems

Support Youth Transitioning from Systems Act (p. 142)

  • “Support services for these older youth should ensure that they are fully prepared for community living. Successful transitions to adulthood require that prior to the discharge of a youth from foster care, juvenile court jurisdiction, or a residential behavioral or mental health facility, the responsible agency must develop an individualized transition or re-entry plan to ensure that housing, health and mental health services, education, employment, transportation, and vital records are available immediately upon release and that they are connected with family and supportive adults and are able to have their basic needs met. To be effective, this process must center the agency of the individual young person affected…”

Family Law

Homeless Youth Family Act (p. 167)

  • Unhoused youth “often experience family conflict, including abuse, maltreatment, and neglect, which contributes to their homelessness. This can drive a youth from their home, limit their contact with their parents and families, and leave youth cut off from much needed resources and support. But youth require permanent, consistent caring adults in their lives for optimal positive development. Due to the key role family connections play in the lives of youth experiencing homelessness, both positive and negative, support agencies and the family legal system must be flexible to support the desired level of connection between youth and their families [and] with existing adults in their lives that they trust and feel cared for.”

 

Minor’s Motion for Direct Child Support Act (p. 174)

  • “The purpose of this statute is to authorize a youth to seek a motion to modify a child support order when they are unaccompanied or outside the care and custody of a parent or guardian.”

Funding and Services

Housing and Services to End Youth Homelessness Act (p. 26)

  • Only 11 states “provide funding for youth-specific housing and services, and variation in laws and licensing from state to state result in conflicts for programs that also wish to access federal funds. [C]ommunities and youth need flexible access to an array of housing and service options. The purpose of this statute is to prevent, reduce, and end all forms of homelessness experienced by young people through the provision of appropriate housing options with supportive services.”

 

Youth Host Home Services Act (p. 34)

  • “Host homes are an effective intervention for youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Host homes are typically short-term, providing a safe, temporary, welcoming space for up to six months where the young person can move toward self-sufficiency. Host homes can be a stranger match, family member, or person known to the youth (family friend, best friend’s family, etc.). Typically, youth in host home programs are provided with a case manager, and hosts receive a monthly stipend payment, training, and support as needed.”

Healthcare

Health Care Consent and Coverage for Minors Act (p. 42)

  • “The combination of increased health risks and lack of access to health care is deadly for unhoused youth and young adults; studies have found mortality rates up to 10 times those of their housed peers and suicide rates anywhere from 5 to 15 times those of stably housed youth. Until we start treating health care as a right and implement universal coverage as well as protection for gender-affirming and reproductive health care on a federal level, states must do everything they can to help unhoused youth and young adults access comprehensive and culturally competent care.”

Immigration

Protection of Immigrant Youth Act (p. 179)

  • “Many youth experiencing homelessness confront legal challenges related to their immigration status. Although immigration laws are born of federal legislation, state laws can assist youth who do not have lawful immigration status. For example, state laws can provide access to IDs, financial aid, state benefits, and create more readily accessible legal processes that can help youth address some immigration-related challenges, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status.”

Income

Youth Homelessness Prevention Cash Transfer Program Act (p. 61)

  • “In the absence of federal cash transfers, states can implement a variety of direct cash transfer programs, targeting specific populations or geographic areas. Legislation offers the strongest protection for ensuring that cash transfer program payments are exempt from eligibility and benefit determinations for most cash and food assistance programs. It also provides protection from being considered income for federal income tax purposes.”

 

Youth Asset Protection Act (p. 64)

  • “Foster care agencies in at least 49 states and Washington, D.C., as well as some counties, examine records for children in care to identify those who are eligible for federal benefits, become the child’s financial representative, and then take the monthly benefits to reimburse themselves for the cost of foster care. Until there is a federal law prohibiting this practice, states can step in to ensure that foster youth aren’t paying for their own care. States can also ensure that housing, shelter, and other providers are not becoming authorized representatives regarding state benefits for youth without the knowledge or consent of the youth or failing to provide any notice or accounting of how the benefits were used.”

LGBTQIA2S+

Homeless Youth Rainbow Safety Act (p. 85)

  • “This model act calls on each state to prepare and disseminate a request for proposals for grantees to expand shelter, housing, and social supportive services to LGBTQIA2S+ youth experiencing homelessness. States must also expand protections against discrimination to a broader range of public systems that interface with homeless LGBTQIA2S+ youth, such as child welfare, behavioral health, juvenile justice, as well as housing and other service providers.”

Status Offenses

Support for Minor Youth Act (p. 122)

  • “A status offense is conduct that would not be a crime if committed by an adult. Status offenses do not threaten public safety, and their numerous potential and layered causes can be addressed by incorporating targeted services into existing youth and family support programs. Detaining youth in carceral systems, on the other hand, has negative effects on a youth’s physical and mental health, as well as their family and community. As such, states should consider eliminating status offenses entirely, or…address them by identifying the needs of youth and families and providing community-based support in addressing the underlying causes of this behavior.”

Vital Documents

Access to Birth Records for Individuals Experiencing Indigency Act (p. 5)

  • “The purpose of this statute is to make it easier for individuals experiencing indigency, including minors and young adults, to access birth records.”

 

Access to Identification for Individuals Experiencing Indigency Act (p. 8)

  • “For all people in America, access to valid government-issued photo identification (ID) is critical to fully accessing daily needs. The barriers youth experiencing homelessness face in obtaining ID and the vital documents (e.g., Social Security card, birth certificate) necessary to obtain an ID are also barriers to youth access to housing, education, employment, and services—all of which are critical for youth to move toward safety, stability, and upward socioeconomic mobility.”