Homeless children in families comprise the fastest-growing group of homeless persons in the United States. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics considers homelessness to be an issue with which pediatricians should be concerned. In this article, we review existing literature to provide a background for researchers, policymakers, and social service providers hoping to understand the phenomenon of child and family homelessness and various strategies used to address it. We begin with a definition and description of the population of homeless families with children. We then offer a broad consideration of the effects of child and family homelessness, from physical health problems like malnutrition and increased incidence of infection to emotional and academic impacts. We end with a platform of policies and other action steps for addressing the problems of homelessness for children and their families.

Key Take Away Points

  • Homelessness affects over 1 million children in the United States and this number appears to be growing.
  • The challenges facing homeless children include physical and mental health problems and low academic achievement.
  • Schools and social service providers can provide crucial supports to homeless children and their families

Author Biography

Kerri Tobin is an Assistant Professor of Education at Marywood University. Her primary research interests are poverty, teacher preparation, and social justice. In addition to her work on homeless children's educational experiences, Dr. Tobin has written about the impacts of nutrition on education and the role of civic education in emerging democracies. In 2011, she co-authored Homelessness Comes to School with Joseph Murphy, published by Corwin Press. Joseph Murphy is the Frank W. Mayborn Chair of Education and Associate Dean at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. He has served as a public school administrator at the school, district, and state levels. His work is in the area of school improvement, with special emphasis on leadership and policy. He has authored or co-authored 20 books in this area and edited another 12 books. His most recent authored volumes include: The Educator's Handbook for Understanding and Closing Achievement Gaps (2010), Homelessness Comes to School (2011), and Lessons for School Leaders (2012). He has also published over 250 articles and book chapters on school improvement and leadership. Dr. Murphy directed the development of the ISLLC Standards for School Leaders and chaired the research panel that produced the revisions to those standards-ISLLC: 2008. He led the CCSSO team that developed the specifications with ETS for the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA). He is also one of the four co-creators of the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education.



Responses to this Article:

Ronald E. Hallett and William G. Tierney, Highlighting the Importance of Researching Family Homelessness (March 2013)