Pilot project offers blueprint for addressing mental health needs of homeless children

February 14, 2017 by Mary Haskett, North Carolina State University

A research team led by North Carolina State University outlines the lessons learned in a five-year pilot project that was designed to help meet the mental health needs of children in homeless families – and could serve as a blueprint for similar efforts around the country.

"There have been very few programs focusing on the mental health needs of experiencing homelessness, so by publishing this overview of the work, we're hoping it can serve as a template for similar efforts in other communities," says Mary Haskett, a professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a peer-reviewed book chapter describing the work. "The scale of the problem is enormous," Haskett adds, pointing to a 2014 report from the National Center on Family Homelessness which found that 2.5 million children are homeless each year in the U.S.

At issue is a program called Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless (Project CATCH), which works with all 11 shelters in Wake County, N.C., that serve families. Project CATCH, which is implemented by The Salvation Army, has three focal points: services targeting children; services to help parents support the well-being of their children; and services to help shelters identify and meets the needs of families with children.

"We've learned a lot over the past five years," Haskett says. "For example, we found that by having all 11 family shelters in Wake County come together, they were better able to advocate collectively for improved community services – such as better access to Head Start, mental health providers and organizations that provide educational support.

"This not only helps kids and families, but has significantly boosted job satisfaction among shelter staff," she says.

CATCH has also helped researchers better understand the scope of mental health needs for children experiencing homelessness. For example, in 2015, Haskett's team published findings that 25 percent of children who are homeless are in need of services.

"Project CATCH shows us that parents who are homeless want to help their children succeed, and they want the sort of support that CATCH can provide," Haskett says. "And this is not about creating new resources – it is about helping homeless families access resources that are already available in the community. Projects like CATCH are efficient, cost-effective and make a real difference for children. Over five years, Project CATCH has cost $121,000 annually and has helped approximately 2,000 children; Project CATCH currently serves 30-50 children a month.

"Now we want to help other areas replicate this model," Haskett adds.

The book chapter, "Interagency Collaboration to Promote Mental Health and Development of Children Experiencing Homelessness," is published in a book of peer-reviewed research titled Child and Family Well-Being and Homelessness.

Explore further: 25 percent of children who are homeless need mental health services

More information: Child and Family Well-Being and Homelessness. www.springer.com/us/book/9783319508856

Related Stories

25 percent of children who are homeless need mental health services

February 19, 2015
A pilot study in Wake County, North Carolina, finds that 25 percent of children who are homeless are in need of mental health services. The study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and Community ...

Researchers highlight treatment, research needs for homeless families

August 21, 2012
A new paper from North Carolina State University calls for more research on how to help homeless families with children who are facing mental-health problems, as well as changes in how shelters are treating these families.

Treating ill health might not be enough to help homeless people get off the streets

October 23, 2014
Health care providers should recognize that any effective strategy to address homelessness needs to include both interventions to improve the health of homeless individuals as well as larger-scale policy changes, according ...

Study sheds light on LGBT youth and homelessness

July 9, 2015
ouths, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, experience many similar issues leading to homelessness, but providers of homeless youth services indicate some of these issues are exacerbated for youths who ...

Recommended for you

The effects of happiness and sadness on children's snack consumption

February 19, 2018
A University of Texas at Dallas psychologist has examined the preconceptions about the effects of emotions on children's eating habits, creating the framework for future studies of how dietary patterns evolve in early childhood.

Cycle of infant reflux signals a call to help mothers

February 14, 2018
Western Sydney University research has found that first-time mothers with mental health issues – in particular, maternal anxiety – are five times as likely to have their baby noted as having reflux when admitted to hospital.

Safe-sleep recommendations for infants have not reduced sudden deaths in newborns

February 14, 2018
An analysis of trends in sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) over the past two decades finds that the drop in such deaths that took place following release of the 1992 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "back to sleep" ...

Most children with sickle cell anemia not receiving key medication to stay healthy

February 13, 2018
One of the greatest health threats to children with sickle cell anemia is getting a dangerous bacterial infection—but most are not receiving a key medication to reduce the risk, a new study suggests.

Premature babies' low blood pressure puzzle explained

February 13, 2018
Scientists have discovered crucial new information about how a foetus develops which could explain why very premature babies suffer low blood pressure and other health problems.

Babies face higher SIDS risk in certain states

February 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) claims the lives of some 3,500 babies in the United States each year, but its toll is far heavier in some states than others, health officials report.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.