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July/August 2008Vol. 9, No. 6ACYF Focuses on Collaboration to Support Foster and Homeless Youth

Collaboration among youth-serving programs is a growing movement that promises to expand support for youth and broaden the population of youth who can be served. Focusing on this collaboration, the 14th National Pathways to Adulthood Conference on Independent Living and Transitional Living, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), brought together representatives of these programs from all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Held in Pittsburgh on May 14-16, the conference highlighted collaborations between Independent Living Programs (ILPs) funded by ACYF's Children’s Bureau and the Transitional Living Programs (TLPs) funded by ACYF's Family and Youth Services Bureau. The 624 participants represented ILPs, TLPs, runaway and homeless youth programs, and various service organizations for children and youth.

Joan Ohl, Commissioner of ACYF, delivered a keynote presentation at the conference on collaboration among youth-serving agencies at all levels—from the community to the Federal level—to help at-risk youth who are transitioning to adulthood. Commissioner Ohl provided more detail on the collaboration between the ILPs and the TLPs. While ILP grants are designated for youth in foster care (or formerly in foster care), TLP grants target homeless and runaway youth. Clearly, the needs of both sets of youth are pressing and, in many cases, overlapping. These needs include support with housing, education, employment, health care, and daily living skills.

Given the similar needs addressed by these two types of funding, collaboration between ILPs and TLPs seems both logical and cost-effective. This type of partnership can lessen the "silo effect" that limits the impact of so many funding streams. To promote this ILP/TLP collaboration, address service gaps, and avoid duplication in services for these at-risk youth, ACYF is focusing on three goals:

  • Increasing community collaborations, including helping ILP and TLP grantees identify each other in their own communities so that they can work together
  • Encouraging greater partnership with education at every level, including the U.S. Department of Education and other Federal departments
  • Enhancing programming for special populations, including minority youth overrepresented in these at-risk populations and pregnant and parenting teens

Commissioner Ohl has appointed Linda Reese-Smith to oversee the ILP/TLP collaboration initiative and coordinate these efforts at the national level. According to Ms. Reese-Smith, there are several examples of these collaborations around the country, but they do not always know about each other. One of her goals is to identify examples of successful ILP/TLP collaborations and disseminate that information so that other programs may learn from these innovators.

After all, youth who end up on the street because of abuse in the home are not usually concerned about the origin of the funding that helps them find housing, enroll in a GED program, access health care, or find a job; what is important to them is that they receive the support they need to make a successful transition to adulthood.

For more information on the ILP/TLP initiative, including specific examples of collaborative programs, read the May 2008 issue of The Exchange, published by the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth:

If you know of a successful ILP/TLP collaboration or would like additional information on this initiative, contact Linda Reese-Smith at