Children, Youth & Families

In 2014, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that there are over 67,613 homeless families, representing 37% of all people experiencing homelessness (216,000 people), and including over 194,000 children and youth. This figure is likely a conservative estimate given that Local Education Agencies reported 1,258,182 homeless students during the 2012-13 school year of which 6% were unaccompanied. The emotional and physical effects of homelessness leave a lasting mark on children and youth due to trauma, poor nutrition, and delayed health care. From treatment guides to descriptions of the state of services, this page provides resources to help address the complex needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.

NHCHC Publications & Resources

  • Supplemental Anticipatory Guidance for Children and Adolescents Experiencing Homelessness (2018) | Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network | A key component of well-child visits, anticipatory guidance—a proactive, age-based education and counseling technique—provides an opportunity for health care professionals, parents, and the child to ask questions and discuss issues of concern. This publication supplements standard anticipatory guidance to account for the unique challenges presented by homelessness that may affect a child’s health and development.
  • Engaging Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Core Practices and Services (2016) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This publication describes in-depth practices and services that HCH agencies have found to be helpful in engaging youth experiencing homelessness. It incorporates trauma-informed, consumer-driven principles and addresses various challenges in youth engagement, providing a multitude of resources for information and guidance.
  • In Focus: Behavioral Health among Youth Experiencing Homelessness (2015) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This issue of In Focus provides a synthesis of recent literature on behavioral health issues among homeless youth. It gives an overview of the homeless youth population, prevalence of behavioral health issues, factors that can impact these issues, and implications for practice and policy.
  • Engaging Homeless Youth: Recommendations and Resources (2015) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This webinar identifies concepts of engagement, describes how services are part of engagement for youth, explores barriers to engagement, discusses the importance of youth involvement, and provides information on locating additional resources on providing services to youth.
  • Adapted Anticipatory Guidance for Infants and Toddlers (2015) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This webinar discusses strategies from a forthcoming Council resource, Adapted Anticipatory Guidance for Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Homelessness, which adapts standard guidelines for the condition of homelessness and aims to improve social, development, and health outcomes for homeless children.
  • Engaging Homeless Youth Resource List (2015) | Shared with participants at the 2014 pre-conference institute on engaging homeless youth. This document lists and categorizes online resources addressing various topics focused on youth (12-24) including: abuse, creative arts program, domestic violence, education, foster care, harm reduction, pregnancy, outreach, rural populations, and youth program development.
  • Promoting Healthy Habits: Innovative Nutrition Education & Physical Activity Programs for Homeless Children & Families (2013) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This webinar explores ways to address obesity prevention, promote healthy habits, and overcome challenges inherent in working in homeless shelter settings.
  • Operation CHOICES: Nutrition and Fitness Programming to Combat Obesity and Food Insecurity for Families in Shelters (2012) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | This case report explores the issues of obesity and food insecurity experienced by families living in shelters, as well as demonstrating the impact of a shelter-based obesity prevention program.
  • Addressing Family Homelessness (2012) | Healing Hands | This issue of Healing Hands identifies models and strategies to address and end family homelessness as it reaches levels that have not been reported since the Great Depression.
  • Home Visiting Program for Underserved Families (2011) | National Health Care for the Homeless Council | In this set of webinars, Soledad Martinez teaches administrators about a Home Visiting Program based in New Mexico and the resources necessary to run this type of program, including needs assessments, funding, community partnerships and staffing, while Paula Marechal teaches clinicians about the services, tools and challenges involved in working within the program. This resource may be of interest to providers serving families in permanent supportive housing.
  • When the Bough Breaks. Families Experiencing Homelessness (2010) | Healing Hands | This issue of Healing Hands explores the impact of homelessness and mental illness on parenting, and presents practice recommendations to support these families.

Additional Resources

  • America’s Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness (2014) | National Center on Family Homelessness – This report presents the clearest snapshot yet of the 2.5 million children who are homeless each year—where they live and the consequences of their precarious situations. The report documents the extent of child homelessness, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and policy and planning efforts for each state. Recommendations for state and federal action are also included.
  • Identifying and Serving LGBTQ Youth: Case Studies of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (2014) | To better understand provider experiences serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) runaway and homeless youth, this case study of four local agencies receiving grants from the Administration for Children and Family’s Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Program reports on programs’ strategies for identifying and serving LGBTQ RHY, the challenges programs face in understanding and addressing the needs of this population, and potential areas for future research.
  • State-by-State Review Regarding Ability of Minors to Consent to Routine Medical Care (2014) | National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth | This documents breaks down statutes by state related to minor consent to medical care, emancipation, and associated case laws.
  • Child Exposure to Trauma: Comparative Effectiveness of Interventions Addressing Maltreatment (2013) | Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 89. | Prepared by the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this report compares the efficacy of 24 clinical interventions for child maltreatment for children ages 0-14.
  • Designing Developmentally-Based Services for Young Homeless Families (2012) | Conrad N. Hilton Foundation | Younger mothers have unique needs based on their age and stage of development. This brief is designed to offer service providers a developmental framework for service delivery, highlighting targeted interventions that will ensure better outcomes for this subgroup.
  • A Tangled Web: Homeless Family Subpopulations and Their Overlapping Needs (2011) | Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness – Homeless families often have intense service needs resulting from mental illness, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and veteran status. Unfortunately, most reports depict families as a homogenous group or lump them with homeless singles, which has resulted in a very limited picture of families. This report sheds light on the diversity and interconnectedness of homeless family subpopulations and stresses the importance of comprehensive data collection.
  • Emotional and Cognitive Impact of Chronic Homelessness on a Child (2011) | Health Care for the Homeless, Inc. (Baltimore, MD), Children & Families Work Group, HCH Clinicians’ Network | This case report explores the impact of homelessness on child development, from communication skills to mental health.
  • Measures Review Database | National Child Traumatic Stress Network (SAMHSA funded) – Free online searchable database that provides clinicians and researchers with in-depth information to enable them to choose the best instrument to assess children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. The Measures Review Database fills an important gap in the field. Its purpose is to promote the use of state-of-the-art measures for improved clinical intervention and research on child trauma.
  • Family Care Curriculum | Karen Hudson | This six-week program uses a train-the-trainer model, which combines attachment and trauma theory to train clinicians to help parents address their children’s developmental, emotional, and cultural needs, while experiencing the stressors of homelessness.
  • Trauma Informed Care: Perspectives and Resources | National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health | This online tool consists of eight modules offering guidance on providing trauma informed care to children, youth, and families through video interviews, issue briefs, and resource lists.