As if they weren't facing heart-breaking challenges enough, one-fourth of the young children in homeless shelters in Wake County need mental health services. So says a study conducted by N.C. State University with a Salvation Army project called CATCH (Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless). The study reviewed data on 328 children aged 2 months to 6 years old who were staying at 11 shelters.
Every parent of a child who is healthy, warm and well-fed and has a home to go to should feel in the distress of these children. Poor and without the comfort and security of a home, they need help they may not even know they need.
But the problems are clear. Research found that many of the children have suffered from poverty all their lives, have seen domestic violence up close and have not gotten adequate medical care. It is no wonder that so many have mental health issues related to trauma of one kind or another.
And this means many of these children are behind when it comes to language skills, which translates into problems at school.
Here is a mission for this entire community of ours. The Salvation Army is one sturdy resource. But N.C. State, with staff and faculty admirably involved in public service activities, can help, along with volunteers from the medical field. The county's mayors could work together.
This is a need that must not go unanswered. Left without mental health services, these children will sink into more problems, short- and long-term. They deserve better.