Homeless Children: Update on Research, Policy, Programs, and Opportunities. Section III. Research Related to Unstably Housed Children and Other Children At Risk of Homelessness


There is little research on the needs or characteristics of children whose families are living doubled up with others or staying in temporary accommodations such as hotels, except for counts of school-age children provided by SEAs and LEAs and the study by Obradovic and colleagues (2009) described above. The NCHE (2009) provides some additional data about children in jurisdictions served by LEAs with ED McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program subgrants to provide additional services, but does not distinguish between the different definitions of homelessness for this purpose. Of 472,000 homeless school-age children served by subgrants, approximately 13 percent were reported to have limited English proficiency, 14 percent were reported to have unspecified disabilities, and fewer than 2 percent were from migratory families. Only 189,000 children (two fifths of those served by subgrants) were tested in reading and mathematics. Of these, 43 percent were judged proficient by state standards in reading and 42 percent in math. High school students were much less likely to meet proficiency standards (35 percent reading, 29 percent math) than younger children. The report contains no comparison data for other poor children, so it is hard to judge the relative progress of children who experience homelessness. The most mobile children were probably the least likely to be tested, but it is difficult to know the extent of the bias.

Although there is little direct data on children whose families are living doubled up or who are staying in hotels, there is a larger body of research on conditions to which these children are especially likely to be exposed, including extreme poverty, financial setbacks such as parental job loss, violence, residential mobility, school mobility, crowding, hunger, and other conditions recently summarized under the rubric of chaos (Evans & Wachs, 2010). This report considers each of these risk factors in turn and attempts to determine whether they are causally related to the poor outcomes with which they are associated or whether they simply serve as markers for poverty for which the adverse causal impact on children has been clearly demonstrated. Several researchers comparing children in shelter with poor domiciled children have found that a variety of risk factors are more important in predicting children’s outcomes than residential status per se (Buckner, Bassuk, Weinreb, & Brooks, 1999; Buckner, Beardslee, & Bassuk, 2004; Masten et al., 1993; Shinn et al., 2008). Thus this report discusses cumulative risk and also factors associated with children’s resilience. The review is necessarily selective, relying on other published review articles where they are available.

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