Overarching federal legislation and policies are needed that facilitate the integration of resources and interventions for runaway and abandoned adolescents. Despite legislative and public policy initiatives designed to address the needs of this population, implementation is inconsistent across jurisdictions and departments. The goal of this article is to highlight the details that impede forward-thinking mechanisms pertaining to runaway and abandoned youths. We summarize the epidemiology of adolescent maltreatment outcomes as precursors to runaway and abandoned status. We review the societal choices at stake. We describe the contrast between (a) initiatives that promote assurance of fulfillment of adolescents’ basic needs for food and shelter, safety, education, vocational training, and intervention access and (b) sanctions for adolescent misbehavior issued by representatives of juvenile and social service systems. The main priority should be assurance of fulfillment of needs.

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