Early Childhood

Deeper Dives for Schools: Practical Strategies to Serve Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

This resource, created in partnership with David Douglas School District in Oregon, is designed to provide schools and district staff with practical strategies to serve young children experiencing homelessness. Each one-page tip sheet shares strategies on a different aspect of access.

Co-authored with Kristi Byfield, B.S., M.Ed. Assistant Administrator, Multnomah Early Childhood Program, David Douglas School District, Oregon

Quality early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s health and well-being, and help families experiencing homelessness regain stability. Early childhood programs are particularly important in the context of homelessness: the younger and longer a child experiences homelessness, the greater the cumulative toll of negative outcomes, which can have lifelong effects. Yet, even as the Every Student Succeeds Act placed more emphasis on access to preschool and early childhood programs for children experiencing homelessness, many schools and district staff struggle to make connections with those programs.

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1. Collaborating for Success

Where to start: It’s all about relationships. 

Ask to join existing meetings or set up your own meetings.

Keep the lines of communication open.

2. Preparing staff and systems

The realities of homelessness can make it challenging for families to comply with standard policies of many early care and education programs. Families may struggle to organize documents; they may have challenges keeping children’s clothes clean. Children receiving classroom-based services may arrive late or early; they may forget their backpack; they may arrive without having eaten.

Think of the small things that make a big difference.

Prepare your staff to understand and respond to the needs of families experiencing homelessness.

Work as a team to meet the needs of children and families.

3. Streamlining enrollment and participation

Cross-train staff so every program is able to begin the enrollment and/or screening process for other programs, providing a single point of entry for early care and education.

Make information and applications as accessible as possible.

Share information appropriately to expedite services.

4. Working with families

Connect families to other services they may need quickly and effectively.

Combine resources to provide holistic services to families where they are.

Build relationships with families together, across programs. Understand and accommodate the real stressors and trauma parents are experiencing.