The impact of childhood foster care and other out-of-home placement on homeless women and their children

Cheryl Zlotnick, Marjorie J. Robertson, Marguerite A. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study compares homeless women who had childhood histories of foster care or other out-of-home placement to those who have not.Method: A countywide probability sample of homeless women (n = 179) received structured interviews.Results: One-third of homeless women reported being raised apart from their parents. Among women with children under age 18, most (61.5%) had children who had lived in foster care or other out-of-home placements. Variables associated with homeless mothers' children living in foster care or other out-of-home placements were: Child was school-age, mother was age 35 or older, mother had a current alcohol or drug use disorder, mother experienced childhood sexual abuse, and mother ran away from home (when under age 18).Conclusions: Parenting is difficult for homeless mothers who may need to place their children with others to facilitate school attendance. Parent-child interaction may be problematic in family shelters where privacy is rare. Thus, programs promoting family preservation for homeless mothers should provide parenting support as well as permanent housing. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1068
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Data collection was funded by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant MH46104; analyses were funded by NIMH MH51651 and National Instute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) DA09334.


  • Family preservation
  • Foster care
  • Homeless
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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