Methods: Five electronic databases (Academic Search Complete, Medline, PsycINFO, SocIndex, and CINAL) were searched for articles published up until February 2019. Additional searches were conducted to capture potentially eligible articles not identified by the databases by asking key experts in the field to help locate relevant published work. The inclusion criteria included: 1) quantitative results reported; 2) housing instability as an independent variable; and, 3) CPS involvement as an outcome. The full-text of each study was screened for inclusion or exclusion by two reviewers independently. Conflicting inclusion and exclusion criteria decisions were reconciled by a third reviewer. After screenings were completed, a total of 14 studies were included in the review. All included studies were examined for risk of bias and confounding variables.
Results: Included studies examined different types of populations: housing instability among CPS-involved families, homeless families who become involved with CPS, and families drawn from the general population. Overall, the results suggested that different types of housing instability (e.g., being unable to pay rent or utility bills, experiencing frequent moves, living in emergency shelters) is associated with CPS referrals and investigation, CPS non-preventative services, OHP, lower chance of family reunification, and prolonged time before achieving case closure. Additionally, housing instability is associated with other co-occurring risk factors, such as domestic violence and mental health problems, that exacerbate the chance of children being placed in OHP.
Conclusion and Implication: The results revealed consistent findings about the relationship between housing instability and CPS involvement. For families who experience housing instability, it is important to embed much-needed resources within the communities so these families can avoid or minimize involvement with CPS. Future studies should devote more attention to other types of housing instability and investigate how different types of housing instability may be associated with different CPS outcomes.