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March 2015Vol. 16, No. 2Complex Trauma and Homeless Children, Youth, and Families

Children, youth, and families who are homeless or who have experienced homelessness must often deal with complex traumatic issues including domestic violence; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; food insecurity; illness; and the stresses of unstable housing and changing schools. For children and youth, these traumatic experiences, if left unaddressed, can lead to negative long-term consequences such as depression, anxiety, attachment issues, substance abuse disorders, and other mental health problems. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network published two companion factsheets on complex trauma aimed at professionals who work with homeless children, youth, and families.

One factsheet provides information related to complex trauma for shelter staff working with homeless children and families. The factsheet illustrates traumatic issues that families can face through the story of a mother and her two daughters who sought help at a shelter after escaping a domestic violence situation. By following this family's story, the factsheet explains what complex trauma is, what shelter workers need to know to provide appropriate services for traumatized families, how complex trauma affects homeless caregivers and children, and how complex trauma can affect a family's participation in services. A list of recommendations for staff is included.

The second factsheet offers information for service providers on complex trauma related to homeless youth and young adults. The factsheet illustrates issues these youth can face through the story of a homeless youth with a history of abuse and neglect, multiple foster care placements, behavioral issues, and substance use. Traumatized youth's interactions with staff members and authority figures, their interactions with peers, and their ability to participate in programs and follow case plans are discussed. A list of recommendations for staff also is provided.

Access Complex Trauma: Facts for Shelter Staff Working With Homeless Children and Families at (195 KB).

Access Complex Trauma: Facts for Service Providers Working With Homeless Youth and Young Adults at (99 KB).