Kudos to Alison Edie and her entire team for the submission of her Bass Connections/All Babies and Children Thrive (ABCThrive) application entitled “Collaboration to Promote Early Childhood Well Being in Families Experiencing Homelessness.” This proposal requests funding for a one-year period with a start date of May 1, 2018.
What problem will the project address and why does it have significant implications for child well-being? What are the anticipated short-term outcomes from this one-year seed grant, and what are the possible long-term outcomes if you are successful?
Children represent 59 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness in families (Doherty, 2018). Of these,49 percent are between birth and age five (Child Trends, 2015). In Durham, the needs are similarly high. In 2017, Families Moving Forward (FMF) provided 79 families emergency shelter and case management (with 45 percent of children under 48 months), and 73 families (with 27 percent of children under 48 months) with 12-month after care services in their own stable homes.
Young children experiencing homelessness are vulnerable to mental health problems, developmental delays and traumatic stress related to later physical and emotional/behavioral problems (Herbers et al., 2014). Parents play a critical role in supporting young children during stressful events, yet homeless parents face challenges in providing sensitive, responsive relationships (Haskett et al., 2016). Parents’ traumatic experiences, mental health needs and stress impact children’s well-being (De Santis & Hayes, 2016). Moreover, low parental health literacy predicts poor child health outcomes (DeWalt & Hink, 2009). Parenting in the shelter environment contributes to relationship and health problems, yet empirical research on effective parent and health behavior programs in shelters is limited (Haskett et al., 2016).
An integrated, two-generation, interdisciplinary approach to support young children’s well-being is needed. Leveraging existing partnerships, the proposed project will test a new model (Healthy Home) and apply validated models (ABC, HealthySteps) with a new population: homeless families with children up to 48 months sheltered at FMF. The feasibility of conducting evidence-based and promising practices in a shelter will be examined. Short-term outcomes include changes in parent health literacy, parenting practices, and child socioemotional development. With such changes, longer-term outcomes would include improved child socioemotional, cognitive (self-regulation), health, and academic functioning.