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Understanding the Ecology and Development of Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness: Implications for Practice, Supportive Services, and Policy


  • This article was prepared for and reviewed by the American Orthopsychiatric Association Task Force on Family Homelessness.

concerning this article should be addressed to Ryan P. Kilmer, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223. Electronic mail may be sent to


The experience of homelessness can pervade multiple levels and facets of a child and family’s world. In view of the historical risks in the lives of children who are experiencing homelessness (e.g., growing up under conditions of poverty, exposure to family violence), it is clear that interventions, services, and supports need to be equally comprehensive to have a positive influence on child functioning and development. Consequently, service systems, providers, and community supports need to address the circumstances of children and families experiencing homelessness and, more specifically, better attend to their ecologies and the diverse factors that can affect their well-being and adjustment trajectories. Such an approach is needed to better understand the range of factors and influences on the development and adaptation of these youngsters at home, at school, and with their peers as well as to guide the identification and implementation of adequate family-centered services and supports.