Three years ago King County and the City of Seattle declared a state of emergency concerning the issue of housing and homelessness. The number of people that are currently homeless in our region is up from 2015 and still on the rise. What reports often neglect is the impact of this crisis on children and youth in our community.
Just a year ago, 18-month-old Katie came to us after she and her family were forced to find their fourth shelter in only twelve months.
As Katie’s mother became consumed with the task of finding a place for her family to live, Katie became withdrawn, isolating herself from those around her.
Housing instability is recognized by research as a form of childhood trauma. When a family lacks a stable home, it creates stress for both parents and children. And for kids as young as Katie, that stress can affect their growth and development, as well as their physical and emotional health.
It was immediately clear to Katie’s teachers that she was experiencing stress. No matter her exhaustion, nap time was a challenge. She struggled to stay on her mat—much less sleep. She also lacked focus during classroom activities and refused to sit with her peers.
After getting to know Katie, her teachers and case manager partnered with her mother and created a treatment plan. Because of the housing instability experienced by the family, Katie’s treatment emphasized consistency. Following a predictable routine allows children to feel safe and provides them with the structure they need to start making decisions on their own.
Through the challenges of finding housing, Katie’s mother worked hard to keep a consistent routine for her daughter. And Katie’s routine was reinforced, just like clockwork, while she was at Childhaven. Little by little, Katie began to calm down and open up to the world around her. Her teachers state that it has been a marvel to watch her flourish.
More families with young children dealing with housing instability are being referred to Childhaven every year. We partner with parents and caregivers to find ways to help both the children and the whole family as they navigate adversity.