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Am J Public Health. 1997 Feb;87(2):236-40.

Sheltered homeless children: their eligibility and unmet need for special education evaluations.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.



This study described the proportion of sheltered homeless children in Los Angeles, Calif, who were eligible for special education evaluations because of a probable behavioral disorder, learning disability, or mental retardation, and to explore their level of unmet need for special education services.


This was a cross-sectional study of 118 parents and 169 children aged 6 through 12 years living in 18 emergency homeless family shelters in Los Angeles County, California. Parents and children were interviewed with standardized mental health and academic skill measures in English and Spanish.


Almost half (45%) of the children met criteria for a special education evaluation, yet less than one quarter (22%) had ever received special education testing or placement. The main point of contact for children with behavioral disorders and learning problems was the general health care sector.


School-aged sheltered homeless children have a high level of unmet need for special education evaluations, the first step toward accessing special education programs. Interventions for homeless children should include integration of services across special education, general health care, and housing service sectors.

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