By Brock Grosso, Bill Emerson Hunger Fellow, ACF
Over my four months with the Office of Early Childhood Development (ECD) at the Administration for Children and Families, I have focused on understanding the effects of homelessness on young children and how local, state and federal early care and learning programs can best support these children.
I have learned about the barriers to healthy development faced by young children experiencing homelessness, the importance of connecting these children to high quality early care and learning programs, and some innovative policy options to address the unique barriers these children face to accessing these programs.
I learned that, when compared to their peers with stable housing, the approximately 600,000 young children who experience homelessness each year1 are disproportionately at-risk for a host of negative developmental and educational outcomes.2 High quality early care and learning programs can help these children develop the skills they need to be resilient in the face of the adversities homelessness presents,3 but they are often underrepresented in early care and learning programs due to a host of barriers that are unique to their housing situation.4 In response to this need, many early care and education programs managed by the Department of Health and Human Services and by states have developed targeted interventions to address these barriers, including:
- The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act Visit disclaimer page , which required Head Start and Early Head Start programs to prioritize children experiencing homelessness for enrollment, enroll these children before their required documents and immunization forms have been submitted, and coordinate with the local Department of Education homeless education liaison.
- Guidance from ECD for prioritizing children experiencing homelessness to expand access to high quality child care for these children.
- The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Visit disclaimer page plans’ of Massachusetts Visit disclaimer page , Oregon Visit disclaimer page and Pennsylvania Visit disclaimer page , which feature targeted interventions for children experiencing homelessness that are at various stages of implementation.
- A demonstration project managed by the Ounce of Prevention Fund Visit disclaimer page to connect families experiencing homeless in Chicago with Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Visit disclaimer page services.
High quality early care and education programs can help young children experiencing homelessness develop the skills they need to have a great start at life. Although interventions aimed at expanding access to these programs for low-income children generally are important, they may not actually address barriers that are specific to homelessness. Therefore, I hope to continue to identify, uplift and formulate policy interventions that address the specific needs of children experiencing homelessness. Doing so will be a step towards ensuring that every child, no matter their housing situation, has access to all the great programs they need in order to succeed.
Brock Grosso will complete his fellowship July 31, 2014.
1 Bassuk, Ellen L., Cristina Murphy, Natalie Thompson Coupe, Rachael R. Kenney, and Corey Anne Beach. “America’s Youngest Outcasts: 2010.” National Center on Family Homelessness, Needham, MA. 2011. http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/media/NCFH_AmericaOutcast2010_web_032812.pdf.
2 Bassuk, Ellen L., Cristina Murphy, Natalie Thompson Coupe, Rachael R. Kenney, and Corey Anne Beach. “America’s Youngest Outcasts: 2010.” National Center on Family Homelessness, Needham, MA. 2011. Bassuk, Ellen L., Katherine Volk, and Jeffery Olivet. “A Framework for Developing Supports and Services for Families Experiencing Homelessness.” The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 3, 34-40. 2010. http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/92.pdf.
3 Buckner, John C., Enrico Mezzacappa, and William R. Beardslee. “Characteristics of resilient youths living in poverty: The role of self-regulatory processes.” Development and Psychopathology, 15:1, 34-40. 2003. ; Masten, Ann S, et el. “Executive Function Skills and School Success in Youth Children Experiencing Homelessness.” Educational Researcher, 41:9, 375-384. 2012. http://edr.sagepub.com/content/41/9/375.abstract; Obradović, Jelena. “Effortful Control and Adaptive Functioning of Homeless Children: Variable- and Person-focused Analyses.” Applied Developmental Psychology, 31:2. 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853802/.
4 “Report to the President and Congress on the Implementation of the Education Homeless Children and Youth Program Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.” United States Department of Education. Pg. 17. 2005.