Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 115-140

First online:

How Runaway and Homeless Youth Navigate Troubled Waters: Personal Strengths and Resources

  • Elizabeth W. LindseyAffiliated withDepartment of Social Work, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • , P. David KurtzAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, The University of Georgia
  • , Sara JarvisAffiliated withSoutheastern Network of Youth & Family Services
  • , Nancy R. WilliamsAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, The University of Georgia
  • , Larry NackerudAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, The University of Georgia

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Little attention has been paid to how runaway or homeless adolescents are able to make successful transitions into adulthood. This article reports on partial findings from an exploratory study of the research question, “How do formerly runaway and homeless adolescents navigate the troubled waters of leaving home, living in high-risk environments, and engaging in dangerous behaviors, to make successful developmental transitions into young adulthood?” This qualitative study involved interviews with 12 formerly runaway or homeless youth. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. This paper reports on findings related to the personal strengths and resources that enabled youth to make successful transitions: learning new attitudes and behaviors, personal attributes, and spirituality. Recommendations for program development and intervention with homeless or at-risk youth are discussed.