The Housing Drought Impacts Child Development
by Fabella Decema, Docs for Tots HMG-LI Family Resource Specialist
Homes are where people expect to be safe, comfortable and healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many children and families across Long Island dealing with housing instability, low housing quality and unaffordability. Living in an affordable, quality home can have a positive impact on the child’s development. On the flip side, living in low-quality housing which is often accompanied by lack of heat, pests and other negative factors is shown to result in physical, emotional and behavioral problems for children. In a study of homeless families with young children 54 percent of the preschoolers had a major developmental delay (language, gross motor, fine motor, social) compared to 16 percent of preschoolers that were not homeless. We have found that parents express frustration and concern about accessing quality affordable housing. They often say that they struggle with getting their housing application approved and/or getting vouchers they can use because they are above the income eligibility, and housing is too expensive on Long Island.
For example, we recently had a pregnant mother dealing with housing issues. Her toddler was receiving Early Intervention services and started regressing in his development due to the lack of being in a permanent home. The stress of being homeless has also taken a toll on Mom and her unborn child’s health.
As the HMG-LI Family Resource Specialist, I have addressed these barriers by reaching out to other professionals for advice and assistance and advocating on her behalf to help mom navigate the housing system and find a stable situation so that she can focus on supporting her child’s development. In this case, and so many others like it, ensuring optimal child development quite literally starts at home.
Fabella Decema works for Docs for Tots as a HMG-LI Family Resource Specialist, assisting families in English and Haitian-Creole.