Homeless Children: Update on Research, Policy, Programs, and Opportunities. Health and development

05/15/2010

As shown in Table 2 Part A, five studies of children’s health produced results consistent with the idea of a continuum of risk. Three studies found homeless children worse off than other poor children, who in turn were worse off than the general population, typically on measures of global health. A fourth, which did not include a poor-housed comparison group, found homeless children worse off than the general population. Only one study found no differences between groups. Overall, although the majority of homeless children were rated by parents as in good or excellent health, the proportion in fair or poor health was greater than for other groups. Homeless children were less likely to have a regular source of medical care and more likely to use emergency rooms. A long-term follow-up study not included in the review found no health differences between formerly homeless and housed children five years after shelter entry, but the children who had been homeless were still less likely to have a usual source of medical care  (Shinn et al., 2008). There were no consistent patterns by age of children. A study of children in 16 supported housing programs in Minnesota found that rates of health insurance, well child checkups, and immunizations were greater than that of the general population of Minnesota (Gewirtz, Hart-Shegos, & Medhanie, 2008).

 

Table 2:

Summary of Published Homelessness Studies 1987-2005 by Domain

Part A: Health-related Problems

Publication Location Sample Age (years) Outcomes Findings Comments
Alperstein et al. (1987) New York City 265 homeless children 1600 housed children 0-5 Miscellaneous Homeless Children > Housed Low Income Children > General Population  
Miller & Lin (1988) King County, WA 158 homeless children 0-17 Miscellaneous Homeless Children > General Population  
Wood et al. (1990) Los Angeles 194 homeless children
193 housed children
0-5 Miscellaneous Homeless Children > Housed Low Income Children > General Population  
Menke & Wagner (1997) Midwest 134 children 8-12 Miscellaneous. Homeless Children = Housed Low Income Children = General Population  
Weinreb et al. (1998) Worcester, MA 293 homeless children
334 housed children
0-17 Miscellaneous Homeless Children > Housed Low Income Children > General Population Multivariate analyses

Three studies examined the development of young children from birth until age 3 or 5 (see Table 2 Part B). Two found that homeless children were delayed in comparison to housed children or the general population, particularly in language, using screening instruments. However, the third study by Garcia Coll and colleagues (1998), which used a more thorough assessment instrument (the Bayley Scales of Infant Development), did not find differences between homeless and low-income housed infants and toddlers.

 

Table 2:

Summary of Published Homelessness Studies 1987-2005 by Domain (continued)

Part B: Developmental-related Problems

Publication Location Sample Age (years) Outcomes1 Findings Comments1
1.     Bayley = Bayley Scales of Infant Development; DDST = Denver Developmental Screening Test
Bassuk & Rosenberg (1990 Boston 134 homeless children

81 housed children

0-5 DDST Homeless Children > Housed Low Income Children > General Population DDST is a brief screening instrument
Wood et al. (1990)

 

Los Angeles 194 homeless children 0-5 DDST Homeless Children > General Population Housed children were not assessed
Garcia Coll et al. (1999) Worcester, MA 127 homeless children

91 housed children

0-3 Bayley Homeless Children = Housed Low Income Children = General Population Bayley is the “gold-standard” measure of developmental status

 

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