Longitudinal Impact of a Family Critical Time Intervention on Children in High-Risk Families Experiencing Homelessness: A Randomized Trial

A randomized trial compared effects of a Family Critical Time Intervention (FCTI) to usual care for children in 200 newly homeless families in which mothers had diagnosable mental illness or substance problems. Adapted from an evidence-based practice to prevent chronic homelessness for adults with mental illnesses, FCTI combines housing and structured, time-limited case management to connect families leaving shelter with community services. Families were followed at five time points over 24 months. Data on 311 children—99 ages 1.5–5 years, 113 ages 6–10 years, and 99 ages 11–16 years—included mother-, teacher-, and child-reports of mental health, school experiences, and psychosocial well-being. Analyses used hierarchical linear modeling to investigate intervention effects and changes in child functioning over time. Referral to FCTI reduced internalizing and externalizing problems in preschool-aged children and externalizing for adolescents 11–16. The intervention led to declines in self-reported school troubles for children 6–10 and 11–16. Both experimental and control children in all age groups showed reductions in symptoms over time. Although experimental results were scattered, they suggest that FCTI has the potential to improve mental health and school outcomes for children experiencing homelessness.

Publication Date: 
2015
Volume: 
In Press
Journal Name: 
American Journal of Community Psychology