An Exploration into the Prevalence and Timing of Child Protection Involvement among Families Accessing Services through the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority

Summary

Homeless families and families involved with child protective services (CPS) often share common parental risk profiles including, low education level, unemployment, poverty, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, mental illness, and a lack of social support. Children and families served by both service systems are arguably the most vulnerable members of our society. Research has long linked both homelessness and child maltreatment to poor health, mental health, safety, educational, and employment outcomes for children, youth, and families. Mitigating and ultimately preventing these detrimental outcomes is the shared mission of both the homeless service and child protection systems.

Understanding the timing and prevalence of child protection involvement among families seeking homeless services could help providers better tailor their supports, and ultimately, better serve their clients. It also could help county agencies leverage initial touch points to change these families’ trajectories at an earlier stage, and potentially prevent homelessness down the line. The goal of the current study is to examine the prevalence and timing of child protection involvement of families accessing homelessness services from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) through linkage and analysis of administrative records, with an eye toward identifying implications for service delivery and prevention.

Overview of Findings

Results revealed that two-thirds of families seeking homeless services from LAHSA had CPS involvement. Given that CPS involvement most often preceded first LAHSA encounter, the results underscore the importance of trauma-informed services (and the value of cross-system coordination in the provision of those supports) and highlight opportunities for prevention.

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