Addressing Family Homelessness

By Lynn Johnson, ACF Assistant Secretary

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently completed the final of ten listening sessions on the subject of family homelessness, one in each of the ten federal regions.

The listening sessions allowed us to learn about trends, barriers, and local innovative responses from a diverse group of more than 600 stakeholders: parents with lived experience, grantee and non-grantee service providers, educators, faith-based partners, and state and local government leaders. The listening sessions also allowed us to communicate ACF’s resources to attendees, and to ask attendees for ways in which our programs might be improved to better serve families and youth who are experiencing homelessness.

ACF administers programs that are uniquely able to strengthen and support children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. Some of ACF’s programs have specific requirements to serve children and families who are homeless, while others offer services that can help lift families out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency.

Five of our program offices are particularly focused on youth and family homelessness:

  • The Office of Head Start (OHS) has reserved slots for children who are homeless, and in addition to providing traditional educational services for youth 3-5, Head Start centers also feature parental engagement to assist with the challenges experienced by the homeless families. Head Start promotes school readiness of children under five from low-income families through education, health, social, and other services. The Head Start Act and the Head Start Program Performance Standards include requirements for serving children and families experiencing homelessness, including enrollment, outreach, and collaboration.
  • The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) supports the organizations and communities that work every day to put an end to youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy and domestic violence. FYSB programs include the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, The National Runaway Safeline, Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, and the Family Violence Prevention and Services program.
  • The Office of Child Care (OCC) supports low-income working families through child care financial assistance and promotes children's learning by improving the quality of early care and education and afterschool programs. OCC administers the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which is the primary federal funding source for child care subsidies. CCDF is a block grant to states, but includes very specific requirements for children experiencing homelessness, including enrollment, outreach, and training.
  • The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) administers several key federal grant programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Tribal programs, Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood, and Health Profession Opportunity Grants. States administer the TANF program and have flexibility in the use of funds.
  • The Children’s Bureau (CB) focuses on improving the lives of children and families through programs that reduce child abuse and neglect, increase the number of adoptions, and strengthen foster care. CB is also concerned about the welfare of children aging out of the foster care system.

We have begun the next phase of our work. We are carefully reviewing and analyzing transcripts, notes, and materials from both presenters and participants to draw lessons from what folks had to tell us. In so doing, we will be guided by ACF’s over-arching priorities: the achievement of self-sufficiency for parents and the health, well-being and wholesome development of children.

We look forward to sharing more soon.

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