David Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, welcomed participants and set the stage for the Roundtable. His remarks focused on the importance of increasing our understanding of the issue, deepening partnerships, improving services to homeless families, and identifying new areas of collaboration.
A background paper, Homeless Children: Update on Research, Policy, Programs, and Opportunities, was prepared and circulated to attendees prior to the Roundtable to help shape the discussion by summarizing what is known about homeless children and effective strategies and programs to assist them. The summary of the research literature was prepared by three researchers in this field: Judith Samuels from The Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine; Marybeth Shinn from Department of Human and Organizational Behavior, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; and John Buckner of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School.
The paper was divided into five sections:
- Context and data, including definitions and counts of homeless children
- Current research on homeless children, including health, mental health, education, and interventions
- Research on children at-risk of homelessness including economic stressors, residential and school mobility, food insecurity, and cumulative risks
- Targeted and mainstream programs, including access to health and mental health care, and education (including pre-K), food and nutrition programs
- Discussion questions related to data and definitions, education, prevention and research.
A panel of seven researchers, practitioners, representatives of advocacy organizations, and a young woman who had been homeless as a child presented brief responses to the background paper. Themes from the respondents’ comments were summarized and the discussion was opened to the larger group for the remainder of the day. The agenda for the Roundtable can be found in Appendix B.