The Visible Child Initiative
Current projects of the Visible Child Initiative include:
Homeless Adolescent Parent Project
The purpose of the Visible Child Initiative’s Homeless Adolescent Parent Discovery Project was to better understand the status and needs of homeless adolescent parents, their children and the staff who serve them. Following are some highlights of what was learned:
- During their most recent experience of homelessness, nearly half of youth focus group participants (46%) had been homeless for less than one year and nearly half (46%) had been homeless between one and 3 years.
- There are significant inadequacies in housing and shelter options available for homeless adolescents with children.
- Service providers identified the physical safety and social stability of homeless adolescent parents as a major focuses in their work.
- Parenting practices are rooted in generational and immediate trauma experience. Staff described the trauma history of young parents and spoke very clearly about their desire to provide trauma informed services, but struggle with what that means when serving young families.
The full report can be viewed here. The Visible Child Initiative is currently in the process of implementing recommendations from this report.
Children’s Mental Health pilot (CMH)
The Visible Child Initiative’s Children’s Mental Health pilot (CMH) broke down the barriers to access by offering culturally-sensitive mental health services onsite at four Twin Cities supportive housing facilities. The pilot helped create positive change and enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of the participating children and families. Children showed improved social emotional development and parents gained confidence in their parenting skills, had increased empathy for their children, and better understood their developmental and emotional needs. The program also helped to reduce the stigma around seeking mental health services among its participants. The full report can be viewed here.
Making Ends Meet
The Visible Child Initiative’s Making Ends Meet Pre-Financial Literacy Curriculum (MEM) was developed to build basic concepts of money after a request from providers and a search by the FHFund found that there was no curriculum nationally that was designed to teach financial literacy concepts to individuals in extreme poverty. The curriculum consists of four units; Money Values, Debt, Money Management and Building Assets, and Wealth. The MEM evaluation determined that an overwhelming majority of case managers felt that the curriculum is written in a way that clients can easily understand and relate to; it also helped clients to think about and act differently with money. Case managers said they would recommend the curriculum to other agencies and case managers.
History of the Visible Child Initiative
In 2005, the Supportive Housing Provider Group, a group of 17 supportive housing organizations, and the Family Supportive Housing Center, LLC (a subsidiary of the Family Housing Fund) partnered with Dr. Abigail Gewirtz, a clinical psychologist and University of Minnesota researcher, on an assessment of the needs of 450 children living in supportive housing. The assessment revealed that risk factors for children living in supportive housing significantly escalated with age. In addition, the assessment identified a surprising lack of data on the needs of young children newborn to 4 years old.
The realities seen by the supportive housing providers, combined with knowledge gained from the 2005 assessment, led to the creation of The Visible Child Initiative. The Visible Child Initiative brings together research, practice, public policy, and community to elevate the needs of children who have experienced homelessness. The vision of The Visible Child Initiative is to implement a multi-faceted campaign to elevate an understanding of the needs and status of children who have experienced homelessness. The Visible Child Initiative focuses its resources to minimize the impact of homelessness by bridging research knowledge with strategic practice, policy, and community support for the healthy development of children who have experienced homelessness. Through a family-centered approach, we are committed to mitigating the potential for generational homelessness that happens when homeless children grow up to head our community’s future families.
Supportive housing offers an opportunity to leverage community resources to lessen the traumatic effects of homelessness and invest in children’s healthy development. The Visible Child ensures that support service staff in shelter and supportive housing have the best evidence-based research knowledge and tools available to support the social and emotional needs of children and influence positive parenting practices.
Photo courtesy of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund