A family support service for homeless children and parents: users' perspectives and characteristics

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The objective of the present study was to establish the psychosocial characteristics and perspectives of 49 consecutive homeless families who received input from a new designated family support worker (FSW) post at a large statutory hostel for homeless parents and children. The FSW provided: assessment of social, educational and health needs; support and parent training; and liaison with and referral to specialist services. Measures included quantitative questionnaires (i.e. the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Parenting Daily Hassles Scale, the Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory, and the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for Children and Adolescents), and a qualitative (semistructured) interview on service experiences and satisfaction. The psychosocial measures indicated high rates of parenting difficulties, mental health and related needs among children and their parents. Parenting difficulties were associated with child behaviour problems. Parents expressed satisfaction with the service whilst they were residents at the hostel, but they were often not clear about the objectives of agencies and interventions. Family support interventions have a key role in service provision for homeless and other vulnerable families by providing direct parenting interventions and ensuring that specialist agencies are appropriately involved. Family support worker involvement needs to continue when families are re-housed in the community.

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