Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States

In partnership with National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, UMOM was pleased to have participated in a U.S.Congressional Briefing on Early Childhood Homelessness. UMOM’s very own Kresta Horn, Director of Children and Youth Services, spoke eloquently with members of Congress of the imminent need for quality early education programs for young children experiencing homelessness. Every day UMOM’s Child Development Center helps to ensure children are getting the support and tools they need to succeed in the classroom and in life.

Read the full article below:

Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States
By Patrick Fisher, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of Communications

early-childhood-homelessness

On March 30, I had an opportunity to attend a briefing which helped inform a group of congressional staff members on the plight of children in our federally funded homeless shelters. As a member of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) communications staff, I was there to both observe and to gather information about government support for these young children. One of the panelists briefing was Linda Smith, who is the deputy assistant secretary of Early Childhood Development (ECD) for ACF.

What I heard from Linda and others at the briefing was that supporting homeless children and their families is and should be something that is of utmost importance to state and federal government officials and to us as individuals.

This briefing provided an overview of early childhood homelessness, including available federal data as summarized in “Early Childhood Homelessness: A 50 State Profile,” recently released by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Early Childhood Development. Panelists described local and state innovations in increasing homeless children’s access to quality early childhood programs, as well as the remaining challenges they face. Linda discussed steps that have been taken to remove barriers to early childhood programs, including CCDF, Head Start, and technical assistance activities.

Sadly, more than half of all children in federally funded homeless shelters are under the age of six.  This has considerable meaning because research shows children’s early years set the foundation for learning, health and wellness needed for success.

Experiencing homelessness in early childhood is problematic for a number of reasons including:

  • Homeless children have lower birth weights and experience higher levels of childhood illness.
  • Homelessness puts children at risk of poor early development and educational well-being.
  • Trauma and extreme stress in childhood can lead to detrimental changes in brain structure and function.
  • Mothers experiencing homelessness have a higher rate of depression, severe traumatized history and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is vitally important we ensure young children who are homeless have access to high- quality early learning programs that can improve their educational and life experiences.  We know that quality early child care and education has a positive impact on both family stability and on a child’s long term health and development. By supporting children’s learning and development in safe, stable and nurturing environments, quality early childhood programs buffer the challenges and risk associated with homelessness.

As part of that effort, we here at the Administration for Children and Families continue to work with Head Start and child care to meet the needs of children and families experiencing homelessness. Across the country, Head Start and Early Head Start programs are building partnerships in their communities to make their services more accessible for children experiencing homelessness. On Nov. 19, 2014, the President signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014, which authorizes the Child Care and Development Fund.

The new law has several provisions that specifically benefit children and families experiencing homelessness.

Our goal, along with the cooperation and support of states and communities, is to not only help end family homelessness, but to put forth our most earnest efforts and resources to help those families and young children who find themselves in this unenviable position.

Together, we can reach these important goals.

For resource materials, please click here.

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