This report summarizes findings from a research project examining key barriers and supports available for young people (ages 14 to 24) seeking safety net benefits, including housing assistance programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We draw findings primarily from a series of conversations with young people and staff members of youth-serving organizations. Our conversations focused on understanding young people’s perspectives, experiences, and challenges accessing and retaining safety net supports and engaging them in identifying solutions that build on their resilience, strengths, and creativity. We created space for young people and service providers to discuss these issues from their first-hand experiences. Young people and staff members identified key challenges with safety net policies; practices that do not reflect the needs or developmental life stage of young people; and the impacts of structural racism on safety net supports. They also offered strategies for simplifying access to and supporting young people in navigating safety net processes; empowering and supporting young people in decisionmaking; replacing punitive approaches with support and minimized burden; and making structural changes to safety net systems. This study built on earlier research, which found that creating a more accessible and supportive benefits system requires including the perspectives of young people to inform policy, practice, funding, and future research.
For related products, see our Young People and the Safety Net project page.