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Family-based intervention for runaway youth: Evolution of a research program. One lone researcher's trek to federal funding. Sanna Thompson, Ph.D. Adult homelessness. Selected Publications

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Family-based intervention for runaway youth:

Evolution of a research program

One lone researcher's

trek to federal funding

Sanna Thompson, Ph.D.

adult homelessness
Adult homelessness

Selected Publications

Pollio, D.E., Spitznagel, E.L. North, C.S., Thompson, S.J., & Foster, D. (2000). Service use over time and achieving stable housing in a mentally ill homeless population. Psychiatric Services, 51(12), 1536-1543.

North, C.S., Pollio, D.E., Thompson, S.J, Spitznagel, E.L. & Smith, E.M. (1998). The associations of psychiatric diagnosis with weather conditions in a large urban homeless sample. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 33, 206-210.

Pollio, D.E., North, C.S., Thompson, S.J., Paquin, W. & Spiznagel, E.L. (1997). Predictors of achieving stable housing in a mentally ill homeless population. Psychiatric Services, 48(4), 528-530.

North, C.S., Thompson, S.J., Smith, E.M. & Kyberz, L. (1996). Violence in

the lives of homeless mothers in a substance abuse treatment program: A descriptive study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence,11(2), 234-249.

diabetic youth and families
Diabetic youth and Families

Selected Publications

Thompson, S.J., Auslander, W.F., White, N.H. (2001). Influence of family structure on glycemic control in youths with diabetes. Health and Social Work, 26(1), 7-14.

Thompson, S.J., Auslander, W.F., White, N.H. (2001) Comparison between single-mother and two-parent families on metabolic control among youths with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 24(2), 234-238.

Auslander, W.F., Thompson, S.J. & Dreitzer, D. (1997). Mothers’ satisfaction with medical care: Relationship to medical outcomes in children with diabetes. Health and Social Work,22(3), 190-199.

Auslander, W.F., Thompson, S.J. & Dreitzer, D., White, N. & Santiago, J. (1997). Disparity in health status and disparity between African American and Caucasian youths with diabetes: Family and community contexts. Diabetes Care,20(10), 1569-1575.

mid west runaway youth outcomes funding administration for children and families
Mid-west Runaway Youth OutcomesFunding: Administration for Children and Families

Selected Publications

Thompson, S.J., Pollio, D.E., Bitner, L. (2000). Outcomes for adolescents using runaway and homeless youth services. Journal of Human Behavior and the Social Environment, 3(1), 79-97.

Thompson, S.J., Pollio, D.E., Constantine, J., Reid, D., Nebbitt, V. (2002). Short-term outcomes for youths receiving runaway homeless shelter services. Research on Social Work Practice, 12(5), 589-603.

Pollio, D.E., Thompson, S.J., Tobias, L., Reid, D., Constantine, J., Spitznagel, E. (under review)Longitudinal outcomes for youth receiving runaway/homeless shelter services. Child and Youth Services Review.

participant agencies
Participant Agencies

Runaway/homeless crisis shelters (n=371)

  • 11 federally-funded agencies in 4 states: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.
  • Short-term residential, crisis services

Consecutive admissions Winter 1997 - Spring 1998

  • Agency staff involvement
  • Tracking methods used previously demonstrated non-biased follow-up sample

Pollio, D.E. Thompson, S.J., North, C.S. (2000). Agency-based tracking of difficult-to-follow populations: Runaway and homeless youth programs in St. Louis, Missouri. Community Mental Health Journal, 36(3), 247-258.

  • 6-weeks post discharge interview rates:

71% (n=261)


Brief Outcomes Instrument

  • baseline and follow-up
  • average test-retest reliability alpha = .78
  • proxy interview by parents(25% of follow-ups)

Runaway Homeless Youth Management Information System (RHY MIS)

  • Administration for Children and Families
  • Shelter intake, demographic and family information
runaway homeless sample characteristics continued
Runaway/homeless sample characteristics (continued)
  • Average age: 14.7 years, range 11-18
  • Number of Prior Runaway Episodes: 2.4, range 0-48
  • Number of Days on the run prior to service entry: 5.2+15
  • Had family contact prior to service entry: 88%
  • Previously contemplated suicide: 36%
  • School status at intake:

Attending regularly/graduated: 49%

Truant/dropped out: 32%

long term outcome
Long-term Outcome

Average days on the run for time period

service use over time
Service use over time
  • Percent using services for each time period post-discharge
  • Service Baseline- 6 weeks- 3 months-
  • Type 6 weeks 3 months 6 months
  • ____________________________________________________________________
  • Crisis Intervention 7% 10% 13%
  • Housing 4% 12% 13%
  • Alcohol/Drug Treatment 8% 11% 21%
  • Mental Health 36% 33% 33%
  • Health 28% 44% 43%
  • Employment skills 12% 20% 24%
  • Legal 24% 23% 30%
  • ___________________________________________________________________
  • Receipt of service types not significantly associated with maintaining positive outcomes
  • Runaway/homeless crisis shelter services are able to successfully facilitate short-term change for runaway and homeless youth in crisis — thus, achieving their organizational mission.
  • Although runaway/homeless crisis shelters appear to be as effective as longer-term services (the comparison condition) in achieving short-term outcomes, shelter services do not appear to maintain positive gains over an extended period.
runaway troubled youth funding wendt family foundation
Runaway/Troubled YouthFunding: Wendt Family Foundation


Thompson, S.J., Zittel-Palamara, & Forehand, G. (under review) Difference in risk factors for cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among runaway youth utilizing two service sectors. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse

Thompson, S.J., Zittel-Palamara, K.M., Safyer, A.W., Forehand, G., Maccio, E.M. (under review). Runaway youth utilizing crisis shelter: Predictors of presenting problems. Child Welfare

Safyer, A.E., Thompson, S.J., Maccio, E., Zittel-Palamara, Forehand, G. (under review). Adolescent and parent perceptions of runaway behavior: Problems and Solutions. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

participant agencies15
Participant Agencies
  • Youth and parent perceptions of risk and protective factors that influence youth behavior.
  • Consecutive admissions Sept. 1999 – Aug 2001
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Compass House Youth Crisis Shelter
    • 156 youth and 62 parents
  • Erie County Youth Detention Center
    • 174 youth and 106 parents
demographics of runaway youth using shelter services
Demographics of runaway youth using shelter services
  • Female: 56% Male: 44%
  • White: 40% African American: 49% Other: 11%
  • Average age: 16.0 years, range 11-18
  • Number of Prior Runaway Episodes: 3.4, range 0-21
  • Lived with parent(s) prior to service entry: 51%
  • School status at intake:

Attending regularly/graduated: 42%

Truant/dropped out: 29%

  • Length of shelter stay: 10 days, 0 – 33 days
parents responses
Parents’ Responses
  • Adolescents blamed for family conflicts - parents accepted little responsibility for adolescent's departure.
  • Many parents were relieved that the adolescent was no longer in the home and were hesitant to have them return.
  • Parents indicated that the child would have to change their attitudes and behaviors for reunification to be successful.
detention center youth
Detention Center Youth
  • Admitted by parent/caregivers through family court and identified as Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS)
  • Youth NOT admitted due to criminal activity - (non-secure unit)
  • Approximately 70% of youth in Detention Center had past run away episode
demographics of youth admitted to detention center
Demographics of Youth admitted to Detention Center
  • Female: 51% Male: 49%
  • White: 45% African American: 37% Other: 18%
  • Average age: 14.6 years, range 11-17
  • Number of Prior Runaway Episodes: 5.0, range 0-100
  • Lived with parent(s) prior to service entry: 84.9%
  • School Status
      • Attend regularly: 39%
      • Attend irregularly: 58%
logistic regression to predict marijuana use
Detention Youth


Age -- --

Sex + alcohol .89 2.43

Used alcohol 2.22 9.25

Runaway Youth


.76 2.14

-- --

4.96 142.63

Logistic regression to predict marijuana use
detention parent responses
Detention Parent Responses
  • Parent nearly always identified the problem as caused by their child - less often they identified themselves as contributing to problem.
  • 56% reported problems between youth and father-figure.
  • 74% reported problems between youth and mother-figure.
  • Parents more often reported youth’s involvement in crime than did youth

Families appear to be key in youth’s developmental pathways

    • leading youths toward independence while promoting positive relationships OR
    • tension in families lead to escalating negative situations and life experiences
  • Youth pathway to juvenile justice system seems to begin with:
    • family problems running away,
    • escalating problems in the home PINS placement
    • eventually leading to delinquency and juvenile justice problems
  • Interventions efforts need to focus on strengthening families while recognizing that long-term interventions may be necessary to overcome the negative experiences of these troubled youth.
rhy mis national database of runaway youth approx 65 000 cases
RHY MIS – national database of runaway youth (approx. 65,000 cases)

Selected Publications

Thompson, S.J., Safyer, A.W., Pollio, D.E. (2001). Examining differences and predictors of family reunification among subgroups of runaway youth using shelter services. Social Work Research, 25(3), 163-172.

Thompson, S.J., Kost, K.A., Pollio, D.E. (under revision). Examining risk factors to predict family reunification for runaway youth: Does ethnicity matter? Family Relations.

Thompson, S.J., Maguin, E., Pollio, D.E. (under revision) National and regional differences among runaway youth using federally funded crisis shelters. Journal of Social Service Research.

Thompson, S. J. (under review) Gender differences in predictors of substance use/non-use among runaway youth utilizing emergency shelter services. Substance Abuse.

texas region 6 versus national estimates of runaway youth
Texas (Region 6) versus National Estimates of Runaway Youth
  • Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and American Indian groups over-represented among runaways – Asians under-represented.
  • More TX youth discharged to institutions following shelter stay than national rates (27.2% vs 18.3%)
  • Fewer TX youth use drugs (54.1% vs 59.2%), but more sell drugs (18.5% vs 16.1%)
  • Higher rates of physical abuse than national estimates (9.8% vs 7.6%)
texas runaway youth funding uta research enhancement grant
Texas Runaway Youth Funding: UTA Research Enhancement Grant
  • Project with crisis shelter in TX to conduct comparisons with studies in NY
  • Currently have 91 completed surveys of runaway youth utilizing services at The Bridge Emergency Youth Shelter
  • Developing pilot of family-intervention and engagement
nida mentored research scientist development award
NIDA Mentored Research Scientist Development Award

Purpose of award:

  • For the support of a scientist committed to research, in need of both advanced research training, & additional experiences.
  • Professional Career Development
    • Award provides up to 75% salary for 5 years, plus $50,000/yr for research expenses
          • Training Component
          • Research Component
training component
Training Component
  • Identify mentor(s)
    • Extensive experience in funded research to applicant NIH institute
    • Previous experience as research supervisor
    • Willingness to provide assistance at no cost to grant
  • Advanced training
    • Statistics
    • Methodology
    • Consultation for additional training
research component
Research Component
  • Develop research project
    • Research plan uses PHS 398 format, including
        • Specific aims
        • Background & Significance
        • Preliminary Studies
        • Research Design & Methods
  • Judged on scientific & technical merit, design and methodology, relevance, appropriateness for stage of research development, & vehicle for developing research skills described in training plan.
institutional commitment
Institutional Commitment
  • Sponsoring institution must document strong, well-established research program
  • Availability of strong collaborators
  • Institutional commitment in supporting candidate development into a productive, independent investigator
  • Commitment to 75% release time
future research yours
Future Research – Yours?

Many federal institutes have K awards: NIDA -- NIAAA