The purpose of this symposium is to discuss the role that being disconnected plays on youth's health behaviors, primarily those that put them at risk for negative sexual health outcomes such as trafficking, unwanted pregnancy, and parenting at young ages and in difficult living situations. The four presentations represent varying methodologies and outcomes. Paper One explores the relationship between parenting and substance use among those experiencing homelessness and the effect of gender on this relationship. Paper Two describes the implementation of a trauma-informed sexual health intervention for homeless youth aimed to increase access to services and contraception in order to decrease the rate of pregnancy. Paper Three qualitatively explores youths' gender identities and sexual orientations in relation to their attitudes and experiences of pregnancy and parenting while homeless. Paper Four outlines the issues related to the disproportionate involvement of child welfare-involved youth to homelessness and subsequent vulnerability to child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Disconnected youth are characterized by their separation from educational institutions, the workforce, and networks of social support. The most extreme example of this is homeless youth, who face multiple hurdles to reconnection. This symposium presents the need to understand how to engage these youth and those who work with them in interventions in order to facilitate a healthy transition from adolescence to adulthood.