More than a count: hearing from chapin hall executive director bryan samuels
It is an exciting time at Chapin Hall as we approach the important challenge of counting and capturing the experiences of unaccompanied homeless and runaway youth with Voices of Youth Count partners across the country.
Chapin Hall can connect its early days as a policy research center to the idea of using counting and data to influence policy and practice. Take foster care. It may be hard to imagine, but in 1985, America simply didn’t have an accurate count of how many children experienced out-of-home care, how many returned home to their families, nor how many were able to achieve the kinds of normal life outcomes we would want for them – like graduating high school, finding a career, and having good health.
Over the years, with the help of strong applied research and advancing technology, we have found that counting the number of individuals who experience a particular social problem can have a profound impact. Think of overcrowded schools, the unemployed, and the uninsured.
We have learned to use counting to quantify a problem and to provide a baseline to determine if what we are doing is working. Likewise, we have learned to add a qualitative aspect to our research, which includes taking the time to understand the circumstances of those in need.
In recent years, caring individuals in urban, rural and suburban communities across the country have endeavored to quantify and qualify youth homelessness in different ways. Like you, we at Chapin Hall believe we have a public responsibility to young people who find themselves in these difficult circumstances – to do a better job of counting them and truly hearing them.
It is in that spirit that we undertake Voices of Youth Count.
So, we will look to advance the science of how to best count homeless youth, we will conduct in depth face-to-face interviews and surveys with youth and the people around them, and we will carefully examine the evidence, practices and policies all in an effort to improve the life chances of these young people.
We look forward to partnering with all of you.