💡For tips and strategies for referring young children to early childhood development programs, check out our Checklist for Homeless Liaisons.
A new study found that the people who are the most at risk of eviction are babies and toddlers, putting their health and development at risk.
Preventing eviction and prioritizing expectant parents and families with young children for housing assistance is imperative. At the same time, early childhood development programs play a critical role in mitigating the traumatic impacts of homelessness on young children, while also providing developmentally appropriate learning opportunities, family support — and connections to housing. Yet less than 5% of young children experiencing homelessness are enrolled in a Head Start, Early Head Start, or local educational agency preschool program. Finding families experiencing homelessness with young children and connecting them to early childhood development programs is not only important, but it’s also a required duty of school district homeless education liaisons.
For the next twelve months, there is additional funding available to help find families experiencing homelessness with young children and connect them to early childhood development programs!
In a recent Dear Colleague Letter released on September 12th, the U.S. Department of Education communicated the urgent need to spend American Rescue Plan Homeless Children & Youth Funds (ARP-HCY). Additionally, they clarified some of the allowable uses of funds, including for early childhood education of young children under age six who are experiencing homelessness. This means that state education agencies and local education agencies may use their ARP-HCY funds for the following activities:
- Pay for costs associated with enrolling a young child experiencing homelessness in an early childhood development program
- Activities to determine eligibility for child care subsidy
- Developmental screenings
- Early Intervention services
- Transportation associated with these activities
This is great news for homeless education liaisons, early childhood development providers, families, and the one million children under age six who are experiencing homelessness across the US.
But SchoolHouse Connection has been receiving one common question from homeless liaisons: how do I know who those partners are?
If you are a homeless liaison, it can be difficult to locate your early childhood partners and understand which program(s) a child might be eligible for. Here are some helpful resources:
Home Visiting services are available to expectant and new parents of infants and toddlers. You can find a home visiting program in your state through this directory. Common home visiting program models include Family Connects, Healthy Families, America, Nurse Family Partnerships, Parents as Teachers, and many others. Check your state’s profile to see what’s offered in your area.
Federally-funded child care is available to children under the age of 13. You can find licensed child care providers in your community here.
Early Head Start programs are available to children younger than 3 years old, and support the comprehensive development of children and families. This includes learning, health, and family well-being. These programs also serve expectant parents, so if you are a homeless liaison and work with a family who is expecting, you can refer them to your local Early Head Start program even if they do not have an age-eligible child.
Head Start provides similar services as Early Head Start, but for children between ages 3 and 5. Find your local Head Start program here.
Early Intervention programs serve children younger than age 3 who are experiencing developmental delays, for which children experiencing homelessness are at exponentially greater risk. If you are working with a child who is age 3 or older and suspect they are in need of developmental screening and services, the school district is required to assess them under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).
The state of North Carolina recently unveiled an action plan for Early Childhood Homelessness that provides a detailed guide to ensure that children in our state who are homeless receive all early childhood resources and services available in their communities.