Boston organization uses CCDF to provide child care and support to homeless children

Without the feeling of safety and security that comes with a permanent home, children experiencing homelessness are among our nation’s most vulnerable populations. “Child care services during times of financial uncertainty can be a powerful stabilizing force for a family grappling with the challenges of homelessness,” said Shannon Rudisill, director of the Office of Child Care. “It is of vital importance that we work together to craft policies that best serve the needs of the most vulnerable and identify strategies to ensure that homeless children have access to a broad range of support. Innovative policies and programs, such as those established in Massachusetts and implemented by Boston's Horizons for Homeless Children (HHC), are helping ensure that homeless children and families have access to the high-quality care that they need and deserve.”

HHC provides child care for homeless children in a way that focuses on healthy development and education. Beyond just meeting licensing requirements, the organization utilizes an expansive approach geared toward improving the lives of homeless children and their families. In keeping with the organizational mission, which focuses on providing stimulating, nurturing environments for children as well as “connecting their parents with the tools they need to achieve social and economic self-sufficiency,” HHC is developing innovative ways to support families without a permanent address.

Through the Road to Success program (RTS) that was piloted last summer, HHC used resources and curriculum from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), a project jointly funded by the Office of Child Care and the Office of Head Start, to pair the promotion of social and emotional development for children with development of parenting and life skills for parents. Committing to 20 hours per week for seven weeks, parents involved in the program spent time engaged in their child’s classroom, in a parent-oriented CSEFEL training, and participating in life and job-skills sessions in the afternoons. Attendance in the program also made parents eligible to receive CCDF subsidies for their children to receive on-site child care. A rigorous evaluation of the program indicated that parents developed more relationships with people they could turn to for help and that parents were highly satisfied with the program. Moreover, teachers saw improved outcomes in parent-child interactions.

The results were so positive that HHC will repeat the program. “We are excited by our initial findings and look forward to enhancing the program to better serve our unique population,” said Asa Fanelli, CEO of HHC.

By starting the Family Partnerships Program (FPP) last fall, the organization has begun expanding its work into the transition out of homelessness for families with another innovative program that employs a home-visiting model. The FPP provides support for families moving out of the Community Children’s Centers by pairing them with a Family Advocate (FA), who will meet with the family regularly. By sharing information and ideas, the FA can help support the continuation of school readiness in children, promote development of parent-child relationships, and ensure that parents are aware of available resources and support programs. “Continuity of care and social supports are critical for homeless families as they stabilize,” Fanelli said. “Our Family Advocates connect parents to community-based service providers to increase their opportunities for success.”

By providing holistic support for families experiencing homelessness, HHC helps strengthen families as they work to transition out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency. According to Fanelli, “The Family Partnership Program is in its early stages, though we already have seen positive impact.  We’re encouraged to build on its success to improve school readiness, as well as stabilization for our families.”