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Groundbreaking Children’s Services Research

Early intervention for families experiencing homelessness: A randomized trial comparing two parenting programs

Sheltering up to 500 women, youth and children on a nightly basis from across Miami-Dade County, the Lotus House Women’s Shelter (Lotus House) is the largest women’s homeless shelter in the nation. On any given night, the number of children sheltered at Lotus House is likely to exceed adults. Most are between the tender ages of birth to 5 but with no upper age limit, many are teenagers. Homelessness is traumatic for everyone, but especially so for children facing the loss of home, a bed of their own, the stability of family and social networks and support systems, possessions, including precious toys, and food insecurity. Homelessness layered atop poverty, disabilities, medical and/or mental health issues, and other complex needs in addition to the traumatic events leading up to homelessness compounds the challenges faced by vulnerable children. Recognizing their special needs, Lotus House utilizes “children first” principles in its trauma informed operations, programming and support services, welcoming children and families with enriched resources and supportive services, a special intake sanctuary, residential rooms tailored to meet their needs, pint size furnishings and play spaces throughout, an arts and activities lab, children’s play room, children’s science lab in the hydroponic Farm (a TCT Innovations Project), creative arts programming in the Lotus Village Voices recording studio (another TCT Innovations Project), the Lotus Learning Pod educational programming, among many other program features designed to heal and strengthen children and families. Most importantly, thanks to The Children’s Trust and other key supporters, Lotus Village includes a model Children’s Wellness Center, providing trauma informed, evidence based early assessments for all children and the deep therapeutic supports which were the subject of this service driven research project for children and families (ECR Project). Continue reading…

This research article is currently under peer review with the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

The Lotus House Service Driven Childrens Research Project Executive Summary

Facing a dearth of research on a national level in regard to the needs and effective therapeutic supports for children and families experiencing homelessness, Lotus House took the lead in developing and proposing the ECR Project four years ago.  Our goal was to better understand the developmental, mental health and trauma related needs of children experiencing homelessness and provide effective therapeutic interventions to heal and strengthen children and improve mother-child relationships. At the same time, we hoped to better inform public and social policies affecting marginalized children and families and to set a new standard on a national level for shelters (both homeless and domestic violence) across the nation for universal screening and enriched supportive services. Of special note and to ensure the project put the needs of sheltered children and families first, Lotus House not only took the lead in identifying the issues to be studied based on more than a decade of sheltering children and families, but the technological and methodological support required, oversaw staff’s day-to-day delivery of services, owned and managed the data, emphasized continuous quality improvement, utilized racial, ethnic, diversity, inclusivity and social/economic sensitivity in its work, and continues to be integrally involved in the publication and dissemination of results. Continue reading…

Addressing Mental Health and Trauma-Related Needs of Sheltered Children and Families with Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Homelessness is a global problem impacting over 100 million people worldwide (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2015). As of January 2020, the Department of Education reported that 1,508,265 children and youth, enrolled in public schools, experienced homelessness (United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2020). Retrospective data indicates that one in every 30 children/adolescents (youth) in the U.S., or 2.5 million children, experience homelessness annually (Bassuk et al., 2014). Although securing safe, adequate, and affordable access to basic needs, such as food and shelter are of primary importance, addressing the mental health needs of this marginalized and at-risk population is also essential. Studies completed over two decades ago found that up to 78% of youth experiencing homelessness have at least one mental health disorder (e.g., depression, behavior problems) and/or experience an academic or developmental delay (Committee on Community Health Services, 1996; Weinreb et al. 1998). However, an analysis by Bussuk and Friedman showed less than one-third of these youth receive mental health treatment (2005). Given the disproportionately high rates of trauma experienced by youth experiencing homelessness (Cowal et al., 2002; Keeshin & Campbell, 2011; Masten et al., 1993), it is particularly important to investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of delivering evidence-based treatments for trauma and mental health issues within this population. Further, with so many youth entering our nation’s shelter systems (both domestic violence and homeless), shelter service providers that are appropriately resourced have an opportunity, through evidence-based assessment and therapeutic interventions, to provide targeted treatment for highly vulnerable, at risk youth, transforming what might otherwise be yet another layer of trauma in their young lives into a window of opportunity for healing and growth. Continue Reading…

This research article has been submitted for peer review to the Journal of Administration and Policy and Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research.