Oversight of Runaway and Homeless Youth (Follow-Up)

Issued Date
May 17, 2022
Children and Family Services, Office of


To determine the extent of implementation of the three recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight of Runaway and Homeless Youth (Report 2019-S-47).

About the Program

Runaway and homeless youth (RHY) can be fleeing neglect, abuse, or conflict in their homes. These youths are generally still physically and emotionally developing and may not have completed their education, may lack general life skills, and may have little or no work experience. Homelessness can make youths vulnerable to violence, crime, and sexual exploitation. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given night in January 2020, New York reported over 3,000 homeless, unaccompanied youths. The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) oversees a network of supports designed to meet the needs of RHY. In 2021, there were 132 OCFS-certified RHY programs with a total capacity to serve 1,159 youth on a given night. Counties with approved RHY programs can opt in to receive RHY funding from OCFS. Twenty-five counties and the municipality of New York City opt to receive funding; the other counties do not, and certified residential RHY programs do not operate in those counties. Every county, regardless of whether it receives OCFS funding, is required to complete and submit a Child and Family Services Plan (Services Plan). The Services Plan is a local, 5-year plan (with annual updates) for the provision of services and the allocation of resources, including RHY. OCFS is responsible for reviewing and approving all county Services Plans. Additionally, OCFS is required to perform program and fire safety inspections annually (within 364 days of the prior inspection) for all certified RHY programs and facilities.

Our initial audit report, covering the period January 1, 2018 through February 21, 2020, found that while OCFS generally had established controls to ensure it is conducting program and fire safety inspections for certified RHY programs and facilities, it did not always conduct inspections within established time frames, and supporting documentation was not always complete or provided timely by or to program staff after the conclusion of an inspection. For a sample of 20 RHY programs visited, while overall conditions generally met program and fire safety requirements, we identified 32 deficiencies across many of the programs visited, including missing smoke detectors, dirty bathroom vents, a loaded power strip plugged into another loaded power strip, missing outlet covers, and water-damaged ceilings with possible mold. Additionally, for counties that did not opt in to receive RHY funding and did not operate certified RHY programs, we found that the Services Plans were not always sufficiently detailed to determine whether they support positive local programming within the county. Because of these and other weaknesses, we concluded that OCFS needed to improve its oversight by developing written standards for conducting inspections, working with RHY programs to ensure correction of deficiencies that were identified during the audit, and revising the Services Plan internal guidance.

Key Finding

OCFS made some progress in addressing the problems identified in the initial audit report. However, improvements are still needed. Of the initial report’s three audit recommendations, one has been fully implemented, one partially implemented, and the other was not implemented.

Nadine Morrell

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director
: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236