Approximately 2.5 million children in America face homelessness each year; that is 1 in 30 children. These children suffer physically, mentally, and often struggle as adults if they are not helped. It is fundamental that we support these children in order to give them a fair chance at success and happiness.
In the United States, over 2.5 million children face homelessness each year, making child homelessness a great concern. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies born into homelessness risk longer stays in the hospital, children show signs of emotional problems and developmental delays by 18 months, and youth facing homelessness have poor nutrition and lack standard medical care, such as receiving vital vaccinations. Furthermore, separation of homeless parents and their children is prominent. In 2004 a study from the American Psychologist found that 44% of mothers who participated in their study separated from one or more of their children while facing homelessness, in comparison to 8% of mothers who are not homeless. However, the effects stem well past a child’s early life.
An American Psychologist study found that “homeless children experience an array of problems in their health, development, behavior, and schooling.” Furthermore, homeless children are more likely to experience acute and chronic health problems, usually attributed to hunger and poor nutrition. Homelessness not only affects children physically but also mentally, as children experiencing homelessness “were found to have greater instances of developmental delays [and increased levels of] clinical depression, anxiety, and behavior problems.” These problems can all add up in a child’s life, even affecting their abilities to perform in school. Many children facing homelessness “have been found to miss more school days, perform lower on tests, and be more likely to repeat grades.”
Children born into homelessness do not have a choice or an easy way out of the cycle. They are forced to bear various health problems and the mental stress that comes with homelessness. However, these detrimental effects can be solved with early intervention. Here are ways to help support children who are born into homelessness.
The Framework to End Youth Homelessness
In 2010, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness created a federal plan to end youth homelessness. The basis of the plan includes collecting data and addressing these four important outcomes for youth including stable housing, access to both physical and mental health care, transportation, tutoring, mentoring support for academics and job searches and permanent, meaningful connection to adults in their lives such as teachers, coaches, friends and more.
Housing and Services
In order to address the growing homelessness population amongst children, providing immediate access to housing and shelters is vital. The Family Housing Fund states that a strategy to help children is by ensuring priority access to services for unhoused families that provide supportive housing, nutritional support, afterschool programs and more. Additional services include offering health screenings and prenatal care, monitoring children’s development and assisting children participating in school activities. Early intervention for children born into homelessness is important to help them break out of the cycle.
Education for both parents and children experiencing homelessness is necessary for [reason]. Providing parenting education for parents who lacked a supportive childhood, after-school tutoring for children, as well as teaching new mothers about their child’s development can help prevent the child from experiencing a negative childhood due to homelessness.
What Schools Can Do
Schools can play an important role in supporting children experiencing homelessness by providing free lunches, staying open during breaks for shelter and meals for students, providing transportation, partnering with organizations focused on supporting unhoused youth and connecting students to mentoring and tutoring programs. It is also vital to educate school teachers on impacts of childhood homelessness and signs to look out for tomake educators more aware and lessen the impact of homelessness on young children’s education.
Childhood homelessness is becoming an increasingly prevalent concern as the number of unhoused children rises. Homelessness affects developing children in terms of their physical health as well as their mental wellbeing, and its effects could carry into a child’s future. It is fundamental that we support these children in order to give them a fair chance at success and happiness.