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Position Statement on Family Homelessness: Mental Health Needs of Children and Families

January 20, 2015

Introduction

Each year, 1 in 30 American children experiences homelessness (Bassuk, DeCandia, Beach, & Berma, 2014). A recent systematic review and meta-analysis based on the literature to date summarized the mental health needs of homeless children. Approximately 40% of homeless school-aged children have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation, which is 2 to 4 times the rate for poor children of similar age (Bassuk, Richard, & Tsertsvadze, in press). Unfortunately, adequate mental health responses remain largely absent from homeless services. Mental well-being of families and children who do not have a home is a complex issue and this complexity contributes to fragmentation and lack of coordination among all stakeholders involved. Unlike medical, educational, or criminal systems, homeless facilities have virtually no standards for delivering mental health services. The problem has taken on greater urgency following the economic downturn, as growing unemployment rates and increasing cases of foreclosures have adversely impacted families (Bassuk, 2010). A comprehensive approach is required to address the mental health needs of children and families experiencing homelessness.

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