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Foreclosure damages children’s health, grades

By Cornelius Frolik,

Staff Writer

6:43 PM Sunday, April 29, 2012

Housing instability has a negative impact on children’s well-being, and almost 80,000 children in Ohio have lost their homes to foreclosure while many others are at risk of it happening to them, according to a new study.

Foreclosures increase the stress levels in households, and they can result in families having to live in poor neighborhoods with more crime and weaker community bonds, according to a new report by First Focus, a family-advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

The school performance of children who change living arrangements often slides, and some health issues have been linked to housing changes.

“It is a huge, traumatic issue for families,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “The implications for kids’ long-term well-being is really poor.”

An estimated 79,000 children in Ohio have lost their homes to foreclosure, and 98,000 are at risk of eviction because their families’ mortgage payments are at least 60 days delinquent, according to the First Focus report released earlier this month.

Across the country, millions of children have lost their homes while millions more are at risk of joining them.

Families that are evicted from their homes often must double up with other relatives or rely on friends for a place to stay, according to First Focus. Unstable housing situations commonly lead to emotional and psychological hardships that negatively affect family relationships.

“The financial pressure on parents tends to affect interactions with each other and with their children, and a less supportive parenting style caused by stress can have negative consequences on children’s behavior and their overall development,” said Julia Isaacs, senior research fellow at the Urban Institute and author of the report.

Additionally, the schoolwork of children who are forced to move out of their homes often suffers, and one move has the same effect of missing one month of school, the report said.

Families with housing problems often also postpone important medical visits and they skip buying necessary medications.

People often think of a foreclosure as a single event, but studies show that the foreclosure process on average takes more than 600 days to reach a conclusion, said Cyleste Collins, research assistant professor with the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“Many of these families are living in a state of limbo for a very long period of time,” she said. “Being in that limbo state and trying to fight to avoid losing your house is very tough on these families.”

Collins said parents try to limit the disruption the foreclosures cause in their children’s lives by doing things like keeping them in the same schools or holding onto their home until the school year ends.

But it is very difficult to shield children from the hardships involved in losing a home, she said.

First Focus advocates for government policies that help residents refinance their mortgages and prevent foreclosures through loan modifications, and the group also calls for more programs that help families find new affordable homes.

The group urges the government to provide more housing assistance to homeless children, and it encourages schools to develop methods to help transition students into a new school setting when they are forced to move.

Collins encourages families facing foreclosure to reach out to friends, relatives and community members for emotional support to help them cope with the harrowing experience.

“They need some sort of system to support them,” she said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-0749 or

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