Friday, June 28, 2013

Can you imagine having your child taken away because you're homeless?

One of our board members called late on a Thursday afternoon to tell us that one of his pediatric partners had a newborn patient whose parents would have to live in their car when they left the hospital.

Until our case manager told me, I didn’t realize that the hospital social worker would be obligated to call child services. The baby would be taken away from the parents, because they couldn’t provide a home. She told me another of the mothers already in our program lost her kids to the foster care system because she became homeless.

It happens more than you might guess. According to The National Center on Family Homelessness, 12% of homeless children are placed in foster care, compared to 1% of other children.

And, that isn’t good news for their future.  The National Center on Family Homelessness also tells us that “Foster care placement has been identified as a childhood risk factor that predicts family homelessness during adulthood.” It perpetuates a cycle.

It just so happened that we had an Immediate Housing apartment available, so the family moved in over the weekend.

Last year, Health and Human Services funded pilot programs in five cities to address the problem by creating partnerships between child services and homeless service providers. Let’s hope the pilot programs provide some solid models for keeping homeless children out of foster care.

They have enough strikes against them without losing their families.