Identifying Unmet Mental Health Needs in Children of Formerly Homeless Mothers Living in a Supportive Housing Community Sector of Care

Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School, F256/2B West, 2450 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.09). 04/2010; 38(3):421-32. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-009-9378-1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study reports psychosocial characteristics of a sample of 111 children (K to 2nd grade) and their mothers who were living in urban supportive housings. The aim of this study was to document the various types and degree of risk endemic to this population. First, we describe the psychosocial characteristics of this homeless sample. Second, we compared this homeless sample with a grade-matched, high-risk, school-based sample of children (n = 146) who were identified as showing early symptoms of disruptive behaviors. Third, we compared the parents in both samples on mental health, parenting practices, and service utilization. Results showed that children living in supportive housing were in the at-risk range and had comparable levels of externalizing problems, internalizing problems, school problems and emotional strengths with the school-based risk sample receiving prevention services at a family support community agency. Mothers in supportive housing reported significantly higher psychological distress, less optimal parenting practices and greater service utilization. These findings are among the first to provide empirical support for the need to deliver prevention interventions in community sectors of care.

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    • "Further, both are recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (Moodie et al. 2014). As noted by Lee et al. (2010), emergency, transitional, and supportive housing agencies are not traditional mental health services providers for children; yet, these settings could be critical portals for developmental and behavioral health care by screening for developmental functioning. Screening for developmental status and mental health functioning should be provided in the context of comprehensive and integrated services for families experiencing homelessness, coordinated within the larger community (Kilmer et al. 2012; Swick and Williams 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: The developmental status and social-emotional functioning of young children who are homeless has received inadequate attention in spite of high rates of homelessness among families with young children and the potentially negative impact of homelessness and associated stressors on children’s well-being. The aim of this study was to gain understanding of homeless children’s social-emotional adjustment and their functioning in language, motor, and cognitive skills. We also examined gender and age differences in those areas of development. The sample included 328 children residing with their parents in one of 11 emergency shelter or transitional housing programs for families who were experiencing homelessness in a central North Carolina county. Child case managers administered the Brigance Early Childhood Screen II and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Socioemotional form in the shelter setting. Findings indicated variability in competence among the children, with some children performing above average on the developmental screening and demonstrating few social-emotional problems. However, developmental scores for overall functioning of the sample were significantly below the norming group, with particularly low functioning in language and communication skills. Parents of 24.8 % of the children had substantial concerns about their children’s mental health status. Although there are individual differences in adjustment of children experiencing homelessness, results support wide-scale screening and access to early intervention for these vulnerable children. Future investigations could be directed to identifying factors associated with resilience among children without homes.
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