The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report entitled “Well-being of Young Children after Experiencing Homelessness.”  The study collected data from families at the time they were in emergency shelters, followed the families over the next 20 months, and then surveyed them again, collecting information about the family, the parents, and up to two focal children in each family.


Key findings include:

  • Twenty months after staying in an emergency shelter with their families, children scored worse in pre-reading skills and had higher rates of overall behavior problems and early development delays compared to national norms for children their age.
  • Unstable housing arrangements remained common during the 20 months following a stay in emergency shelter, with 41 percent of families reporting that, during the past six months, they had been in a shelter or a place not suitable for human habitation, had doubled up in someone else’s housing unit, or had moved at least once.
  • Enrollment in early education and center-based care was lower for families who had experienced housing instability in the past six months compared to those who had been stably re-housed. However, housing instability did not appear to be associated with lower enrollment in Head Start programs.
  • Children who had more stable recent housing situations and more stable child care arrangements displayed fewer behavior problems 20 months after a shelter stay than those who did not.
  • Children ages three and four who were enrolled in Head Start or other early education and center-based care displayed stronger pre-math and pre-reading skills than those who were only in parental care.

For more information on young children experiencing homelessness, including important federal protections and programs, please visit:
SchoolHouse Connection’s Early Childhood Education page
Administration for Children & Families’ Expanding Early Care and Education for Homeless Children page

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