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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries


Carolyn V. Torsell
Information Research Specialist

This report summarizes federal disaster assistance programs for use by Members of Congress and their staff in helping address the needs of constituents. A number of federal agencies provide assistance to individual victims; state, territorial, and local governments; and non-governmental entities, following a disaster. The federal forms of assistance include grants, loans, loan guarantees, temporary housing, and counseling.

The programs summarized in this report fall into two broad categories. First are programs for disaster situations; most of these programs are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Second are general assistance programs that may be used in either disaster situations, or to meet regular service needs. Many federal agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice, administer programs that may be brought to bear under certain circumstances.

The programs may also be classified by recipients: primarily individuals, state and local governments, or businesses. These programs address such short-term needs as food and shelter, and such long-term needs as repair of public utilities.

This report includes a list of CRS reports on disaster assistance and assistance for victims of recent hurricanes. It also includes a list of federal agencies’ websites that were established to provide information on disaster responses, updates on recovery efforts, and resources on federal assistance programs.



Date of Report: March 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RL31734
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs

Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

There is no single definition of the term “runaway youth” or “homeless youth.” However, both groups of youth share the risk of not having adequate shelter and other provisions, and may engage in harmful behaviors while away from a permanent home. These two groups also include “thrownaway” youth who are asked to leave their homes, and may include other vulnerable youth populations, such as current and former foster youth and youth with mental health or other issues.

Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A youth’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and alcohol and drug use are strong predictors of family discord. The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway. Estimates of the homeless youth exceed 1 million. Estimates of runaway youth—including “thrownaway” youth (youth asked to leave their homes)—are between 1 million and 1.7 million.

From the early 20
th century through the 1960s, the needs of runaway and homeless youth were handled locally through the child welfare agency, juvenile justice courts, or both. The 1970s marked a shift toward federal oversight of programs that help youth who had run afoul of the law, including those who committed status offenses (i.e., running away). In 1974, Congress passed the Runaway Youth Act of 1974 as Title III of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (P.L. 93-415) to assist runaways outside of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYP) has since been expanded through reauthorization laws enacted approximately every five years since the 1970s, most recently by the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act (P.L. 110-378).

The RHYP currently authorizes federal funding for three programs—the Basic Center Program, Transitional Living Program, and Street Outreach Program. The Basic Center Program provides temporary shelter, counseling, and after care services to runaway and homeless youth under age 18 and their families. The BCP serves approximately 40,000 to 50,000 youth per year. The Transitional Living Program is targeted to older youth ages 16 through 22 (and sometimes an older age), and serves approximately 3,500 to 4,000 youth each year. Youth who use the TLP receive longer-term housing with supportive services. The Street Outreach Program provides education, treatment, counseling, and referrals for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Each year, the SOP makes hundreds of thousands of contacts with street youth (some of whom have multiple contacts). Related services authorized by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act include a national communication system to facilitate communication between service providers, runaway youth, and their families; training and technical support for grantees; and evaluations of the programs; among other activities. The 2008 reauthorizing legislation expands the program, requiring HHS to conduct an incidence and prevalence study of runaway and homeless youth.

In addition to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, other federal programs support runaway and homeless youth. Assistance can be provided through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, discretionary grants for family violence prevention, and the Chafee Foster Care Independent Living program for foster youth.



Date of Report: February 28, 2011
Number of Pages: 35
Order Number: RL33785
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Missing Adults: Background, Federal Programs, and Issues for Congress


Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

Adults may go missing due to choice, an abduction, foul play, a mental or physical disability, or a natural catastrophe, among other reasons. Although no accurate estimates exist of the number of missing adults, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that as of January 1, 2011, nearly 50,000 missing adult cases were pending in the National Crime Information System (NCIC), a federal computerized index with data on crimes and locator files for missing and unidentified persons. Certain adults are particularly vulnerable to missing episodes; for example, those with dementia are at risk for wandering. Adults who engage in high-risk behaviors, including involvement in gang activity, may also be more prone to going missing.

Unlike children, adults have the legal right to go missing under most circumstances. As a result, families of missing adults may receive limited assistance from state and local law enforcement entities in recovering their loved ones. The federal government has not been involved in assisting law enforcement entities with missing adult cases in the same way it has with missing children cases. Further, cases of missing children and young adults under the age of 21 must be reported to the NCIC, while reporting missing adults to the database is voluntary. In recent years, however, the federal government has increasingly played a role in (1) preventing certain types of missing adult incidents and (2) working to recover adults who go missing, including those who are deceased and for whom only remains can be found.

Recognizing the needs of a growing aging population, Congress authorized funding for the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert program under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The program has awarded funds to the Alzheimer’s Association of America since FY1996 to protect and locate missing individuals with dementia through a patient identification program, as well as outreach and education efforts. In 2000, Congress passed Kristen’s Act (P.L. 106-468) to permit the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make grants to establish a national clearinghouse for missing adults and provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies in locating these individuals. From FY2002 through FY2006, DOJ made grants to the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA) for these purposes. In addition, federal DNA Initiative has also supported efforts to recover missing persons and identify unidentified human remains by funding DNA analysis and providing technical assistance on using this analysis. Both DOJ and NCMA have established databases to collect and disseminate information to law enforcement on missing adults, their relatives, and unidentified human remains. These databases have overlapping but distinct features, and have limited capacity to share information.

Policymakers and other stakeholders have increasingly focused on two issues related to adults who go missing: whether to provide federal assistance to states and localities to develop alert systems and technology to locate missing adults; and possibly expanding federal involvement in cases of missing adults with diminished mental capacity. Another issue is the coordination of the databases on missing persons.


Date of Report: February 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34616
Price: $29.95

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