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State Highlights

Some areas where Illinois has moved the needle relative to other states includes providing unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness the opportunity to seek legal independence and allowing them to access critical supports and services.

Law & Policy

  • State law allows youth in need of supervision to receive services without court involvement.
  • State law does not specifically criminalize running away.
  • State law provides youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights.
  • State allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own.

Systems

  • The state provides tuition waivers for foster youth.
  • Youth can gain access to a state-issued identification card without the requirement of parental consent in certain circumstances.

Environment

  • The state has banned conversion therapy for minors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in child welfare and juvenile justice programs providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement throughout the metrics for the Prairie State, with emphasis on the Law & Policy category. Addressing the educational needs of youth experiencing homelessness should be of importance, and protecting the rights and interests of youth experiencing homelessness, including LGBTQ youth, should be prioritized.

Law & Policy

  • Enact and fund a state law similar to the federal RHYA to provide key intervention and emergency services for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Implement a grievance process for students experiencing homelessness that complies with federal law.

Systems

  • Enact a comprehensive statewide plan to end homelessness.
    • Create a statewide strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness that includes a plan to address homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
  • Create a state entity - such as an Office of Homeless Youth Services - that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.
  • Create an Interagency Council on Homelessness that mirrors the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), providing a multi-sectoral approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Environment

  • Organize and maintain a self-governing youth action board or council to inform youth homelessness policy within the state.
  • Require training about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, healthy sexual development, or issues specific to LGBTQ youth for staff working in runaway and homeless youth systems.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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