Infant & Toddler Homelessness
Across 50 States: 2021-2022

This report is the most comprehensive look to date at homelessness among infants and toddlers, and is the first state-by-state collection of data on infant and toddler homelessness. This report analyzes federal and other available data to estimate how many infants and toddlers experienced homelessness in 2021, both nationally and in each state, and what enrollment looked like for age-eligible early childhood development programs during the 2021-2022 program year. The report also provides recommendations for state and federal action.

This report builds on a previous SHC/Poverty Solutions report, Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Homelessness: Prevalence and Access to Early Learning across Twenty States, by expanding the analysis to all fifty states and incorporating more recent enrollment data.

 

Summary

Between birth and age three, a child’s brain is developing at a rate of one million neural connections per second. Tragically, an increasing number of infants and toddlers go through this crucial developmental period without a home – an experience that jeopardizes their health, development, and future. 

This report analyzes federal and other available data to estimate how many infants and toddlers experienced homelessness in 2021, both nationally and in each state; the percentage of these infants and toddlers who are enrolled in age-eligible early childhood development programs during the 2021-2022 program year; and the extent to which state policies remove barriers to programs and services for children and families experiencing homelessness. It represents the most comprehensive look to date at homelessness among infants and toddlers, and is the first state-by-state collection of data on infant and toddler homelessness. The report also provides recommendations for state and federal action.

This first-of-its-kind analysis finds that:

364,390 birth through age three year olds experienced homelessness across the United States during the 2021-2022 program year, representing approximately 2.5% of the entire birth through age three population.

Only 41,767, or just over 11%, of these children were enrolled in an early childhood development program, with some states serving as few as 3.5%, and others as many as 55%.

Of the programs for which children ages birth through age three and their parents are eligible:

  • Early Head Start enrolled an estimated 5% of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness; 
  • Home visiting programs served an estimated 2.2% of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness;
  • Local educational agencies served an estimated 4.2% of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness.

While all states have the opportunity through Child Care Development Fund provisions and other initiatives to provide expanded access to programs and services for families experiencing homelessness, few take full advantage of the flexibilities offered to support infants, toddlers, and families experiencing homelessness:

  • 26 states waive copayments for families experiencing homelessness;
  • 9 states offer work requirement exemptions to parents experiencing homelessness;
  • 18 states provide automatic or streamlined eligibility for children experiencing homelessness to access child care programs.

Find your state’s data profile

This is a first-of-its-kind, in-depth snapshot of data on infant and toddler homelessness in each of the 50 states, as well as nationally. These data profiles are intended to create greater awareness of the prevalence of infant and toddler homelessness, and gaps in access to early childhood development programs. 

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Why It Matters

Homelessness is a traumatic experience with long-term consequences, particularly for infants and toddlers in their most critical stages of development. Yet homelessness among young children is hidden. It includes a range of living situations:

  • a six-month old living in a car with her family;
  • a family of five squeezed into a motel room;
  • a newborn in an emergency shelter;
  • a two-year-old on a series of floors next to a series of couches, moving with his mother from place to place as she stays with anyone who will take them in.

Lack of shelter, fear of having children removed from parental custody, and restrictive eligibility criteria for housing programs mean that most young children experiencing homelessness stay in places that are not easily identified.

Methodology

To better understand the prevalence of homelessness among expectant parents, infants, and toddlers, SchoolHouse Connection partnered with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan to analyze census data and calculate an estimate of the number of children ages birth through age three experiencing homelessness across all fifty states.

This report builds on a previous SHC/Poverty Solutions report, Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Homelessness: Prevalence and Access to Early Learning across Twenty States, by expanding the analysis to all fifty states and incorporating more recent enrollment data.

 

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