HD52 - Study of the Educational Needs of Homeless Children

Executive Summary:
The HJR 524 workgroup met five times over the course of the study. Workgroup members reviewed national evaluations of the McKinney Act and literature on the study topic. They also developed, disseminated, and analyzed surveys and interviews with providers of homeless and educational services. As a result of these activities, the workgroup discovered that day care and after-school care needs for homeless children are not consistently met across the state. The absence of alternative care results in further isolation of the child and the parents' inability to sustain employment. School districts are attempting to meet the educational needs of the homeless through their at-risk initiatives, but are usually not familiar with how to identify homeless students or with what constitutes best practice in responding to their needs. Lastly, the workgroup found fragmentation between the human service agencies and local schools and within the schools' at-risk programming. This fragmentation hinders providers' ability to identify and assess the service needs of homeless students, as well as to access the appropriate services in the school or community.

The Services Subcommittee of the Commission on Youth received three briefings on the workgroup activities and findings. On the basis of these findings, the Commission on Youth makes the following eight recommendations in three areas: day care, educational services, and community-wide responses.

The first three recommendations address the goals of providing alternative caregiving arrangements to homeless children, exposing them to early childhood education so they reach kindergarten ready to learn, and freeing their parents up from child care responsibilities so they are able to find and maintain employment.

Recommendation 1:
Increase accessibility of pre-school and after-school care programs for homeless children.

Recommendation 2:
Request the Commission on Early Childhood and Child Day Care Programs to work with private care providers to create incentives to provide pre- and after-school services to homeless children.

Recommendation 3:
Develop a day care respite initiative with the faith community through the Department of Social Services' Division of Volunteerism.

The next set of recommendations addresses the need to increase local schools' awareness of and responsiveness to homeless students. Emphasis is placed on including homeless students in current at-risk educational initiatives.

Recommendation 4:
Increase awareness of the presence and needs of homeless students through the inclusion of homelessness as a risk factor in existing Department of Education at-risk initiatives.

Recommendation 5:
Disseminate to all local school division training materials on the identification of homeless students and how to assess and address their needs.

Recommendation 6:
Provide state funding support for the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Education Project.

The last two recommendations speak to the need to improve coordination and collaboration between the educational and human service providers.

Recommendation 7:
Provide in-depth training, at the request of local school divisions, on best practices for the identification of and intervention with homeless students.

Recommendation 8:
Request the Department of Social Services to make explicit mention of the homeless' eligibility for services under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in their staff training on Welfare Reform.