236404 Fragmented Families: Understanding the Health and Social Service System Needs Facing Homeless Mothers

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Denise M. Zabkiewicz, PhD , Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Michelle Patterson, PhD, RPscyh , Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Kelsi Cox , Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
In recent decades, there has been a dramatic increase in homelessness among women and families with children. Families, headed primarily by single mothers, are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in North America. Further, the majority of homeless women are parents of minor-aged children. However, few of these children are living with their homeless mothers. In addition to the mental health consequences of family fragmentation, homeless mothers face substantial barriers to regaining child custody as they often lose a sizeable proportion of their income assistance because they are considered single adults. This loss in income makes it virtually impossible for homeless mothers to obtain adequate housing which is, in most cases, a prerequisite for family reunification. Drawing from qualitative interviews with 25 homeless mothers residing in Vancouver, BC, this study seeks to describe the conflicts and trade-offs that homeless mothers face as they struggle to perform their mothering roles under the public scrutiny of homeless service providers and the threat of family fragmentation. Results identify and document the unmet needs for health and social services and supports that would allow mothers to maintain and/or regain their family structure. Through analyses that detail the individual and service provider factors that influence family structure, mental health and well-being among the growing and highly vulnerable population of homeless families, this study holds the potential for contributing to meaningful policies and services dedicated to improving the lives of homeless families and attenuating the detrimental effects of family fragmentation.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify 3 challenges that mothers face in their efforts to maintain their family structure within a context of homelessness. Describe the needs/barriers to health and social services among homeless mothers as they relate to family structure. Explain the impact of family fragmentation on homeless mothers' mental health.

Keywords: Homelessness, Women

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this material because I have research experience and expertise surrounding women living in poverty.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.