The Runaway Intervention Project was created in 2006 to identify and address the needs of young runaway girls. The initiative recognized the need to serve runaways with carefully targeted, ongoing care by providers with a special sensitivity toward the girls’ culture and circumstances. The goal was to reduce the traumatic response to their victimization and to improve their health and protective factors, including reconnection to supportive relationships with family and school.
Girls are referred to the program and screened by the County Attorney’s Office or Midwest Children's Resource Center (MCRC). At-risk girls who have not been sexually abused participate in a 10-week, in-school "Empowerment Group" conducted by Sexual Offense Services. They also are monitored for truancy by the County Attorney’s Office and provided services, as needed. Sexually abused or exploited runaways are referred to MCRC for a comprehensive medical assessment and, for those who qualify, intensive services, including home and/or school visits by a nurse for up to one year, individualized case management and family education and weekly therapy groups.
Ongoing evaluation by Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc of the University of British Columbia has determined that the project is "highly effective for extremely vulnerable runaways." Girls in the program have shown dramatic improvement in healthy sexual behaviors, increased connectedness with family and school, higher self-esteem, improved mental health and reduced drug use. Participants have gotten back on healthy development tracks, almost, statistically, as if they had not been abused.
In April 2009, the Humphrey Institute’s Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center recognized the Runaway Intervention Project with a Local Government Innovation Award.