More Than One Million Children in U.S. Have a Young Parent who Experienced Homelessness in the Past Year

New brief reveals 44% of young women and 18% of young men who are homeless are parents or expecting a child

CHICAGO, IL — May 10, 2018 The number of youth in the U.S. who experience homelessness and are also pregnant or parenting is substantial. Furthermore, many of these young parents face homelessness with their children. This is a key finding from groundbreaking research by Chapin Hall, which provides new insights to the challenges faced by America’s youth who experience homelessness.

Chapin Hall estimates that as many as 1.1 million children have a young parent who experienced homelessness during the past year. Among young women, ages 18 to 25, who experience homelessness, 44% are pregnant or mothers. Among young men ages 18 to 25, 18% have a pregnant partner or are fathers.

Coping with pregnancy and parenthood is difficult for any young person. For pregnant and parenting youth who are homeless, those challenges are compounded by major developmental implications for both the young parents and their children.

“As we celebrate Mother’s Day, our findings are a sobering reminder that we have work to do to ensure our youngest families have the best possible start in life,” said Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. “We must increase support for young parents who are homeless and for addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of our young adults who are at risk.”

The challenge for many young parents who are homeless is exacerbated by the lack of family support services for minors and young adults who are homeless with their children. Although the research shows that pregnant women and young parents often seek and receive support, many homeless youth providers do not serve young parents, and many family shelter providers do not serve parents who are minors.  Additionally, some homeless service providers only serve single mothers or married couples with children. This makes it difficult for young families to remain together while receiving services.

Missed Opportunities: Pregnant and Parenting Youth Homelessness in America is among the first national assessments of the increased risks pregnant and parenting youth who are homeless face. Although the report found a substantial level of young families at risk, it also identified concrete actions to address this crisis. The recommendations include:

  • Address the sexual and reproductive health needs of youth experiencing homelessness by adapting evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs and by providing contraception plus prenatal and post-partum care.
  • Increase collaboration among homeless service providers (especially between youth and family homeless service providers) and providers in other systems, including early childhood, early intervention, education, and welfare.
  • Explore opportunities for family reunification, relationship building, and service engagement with youth experiencing homelessness who are pregnant or parenting.
  • Develop the capacity of both homeless youth service providers and homeless family service providers to serve all young parents who are homeless regardless of their gender, age, or marital status.
  • Design support programs that recognize the importance of the relationships pregnant and parenting youth have with their partners and co-parents.
  • Assess the risk for homelessness among pregnant and parenting youth and refer high-risk youth for appropriate services when they are identified.

“One difficulty facing young families experiencing homelessness is finding programs that serve single fathers or unmarried couples with children,” said Amy Dworsky, Chapin Hall Fellow, who helped oversee the study. “This makes it critical that we design programs that address the needs of young families experiencing homelessness in a holistic way.” In a recent webinar, now available on the Voices of Youth Count website, Chapin Hall researchers joined representatives from the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Network for Youth to discuss key findings from the brief.

This is the third in a series of research briefs on youth experiencing homelessness. A paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health was the basis for the first brief, which identified high levels of youth homelessness nationwide. The first Voices brief on National Estimates found that one in 10 young adults, and one in 30 teens ages 13-17, experienced homelessness during a year. The second brief found that LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to experience homelessness as their peers, and were more likely to suffer adversities before and during homelessness.

Background information about Voices of Youth Count

Voices of Youth Count is made possible through a grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Office of Policy Development and Research) and support from other funders including Chapin Hall, Arcus Foundation, Ballmer Group Philanthropy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Dr. Inger Davis, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Liberty Mutual, Melville Charitable Trust, and Raikes Foundation. Chapin Hall is solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations in Voices of Youth Count publications. Such statements and interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the government or any of Chapin Hall’s other partners.

Background information about Chapin Hall

Chapin Hall is an independent policy research center at the University of Chicago focused on providing public and private decision-makers with rigorous data analysis and achievable solutions to support them in improving the lives of children, families and communities. Chapin Hall partners with policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropists at the forefront of research and policy development by applying a unique blend of scientific research, real-world experience, and policy expertise to create solutions for improving the lives of children, youth, and families.