Barriers to Well Child Care for Homeless Children under Age 13


*Address correspondence to Lois Van Cleve, Ph.D., R.N., Loma Linda University, School of Nursing, Loma Linda, CA 92350.


Abstract Barriers perceived by homeless families to preventive health care for their children under age 13 have been underdocumented. This descriptive study was designed to identify perceived barriers to care and to determine if there was a relationship between perceived barriers and duration of the family's home-lessness. Using an investigator-modified version of Melnyk's Barriers Scale and a demographic measure, a convenience sample of homeless families (n= 53) from three transitional shelters was surveyed via questionnaire.

Four barriers were cited most frequently by the respondents as greatly affecting their children's care. These barriers involved provider-selection difficulties, waiting for well child appointments, waiting during well child appointments, and the high cost of transportation and/or parking. No relationship was found between duration of homelessness and perceived barriers.

These findings confirm the reality of potential barriers to care suggested by earlier studies. Innovative forms of health care delivery that may reduce or eliminate these barriers include the use of shelter-site clinics, mobile units, and the use of a nurse liaison between family shelters and hospital-based clinics.