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Serving Homeless Children Through Head Start. National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth 21st Annual Conference Denver, CO November 14, 2009. How Many Young Children Experience Homelessness?.

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serving homeless children through head start

Serving Homeless Children Through Head Start

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth

21st Annual Conference

Denver, CO

November 14, 2009

how many young children experience homelessness
How Many Young Children Experience Homelessness?
  • In 2007-2008, 51% of all children in HUD homeless shelters were under the age of 6
  • 27,817 homeless children ages 3-5 (not kindergarten) were enrolled in public preschool programs in 2007-2008; this is only 4% of all students identified as homeless by public schools
  • 66% of young homeless children identified were in LEAs that receive McKinney-Vento subgrants; only 9% of LEAs received subgrants in 2007
how many young children are served in head start early head start
How Many Young Children Are Served in Head Start/Early Head Start?
  • Head Start/Early Head Start: approximately 29,604 homeless children in 2008 program year
  • This represents 3% of Head Start’s total enrollment
the reality of family homelessness
The Reality of Family Homelessness
  • Lack of structure, routine, stability
  • Trauma
  • Loss
  • Lack of access to food
  • Lack of health care
  • Inappropriate living conditions (no play space, overcrowded, unhealthy, over-stimulation or under-stimulation)
  • Stressed attachments to caregivers
  • Invisibility
impacts on young children
Impacts on Young Children
  • Higher rates of developmental delays:
    • Infants who are homeless start life needing special care four times more often than other babies
    • Homeless toddlers show significantly slower development than other children
  • Higher rates of chronic and acute health problems
  • Higher exposure to domestic and other types of violence
head start findings
Head Start Findings

Compared to non-homeless children served by Head Start (1999 HS demonstration programs), homeless children have:

  • Greater developmental delays (language)
  • More learning disabilities
  • More health and mental health problems
  • Higher frequency of withdrawal, shyness, separation anxiety, short attention disorder, flat affect, aggression, hoarding, anxiety in response to changes in environment or staff absences, concern over getting enough food, and sharing toys
early care and education landscape where does head start fit
Early Care and Education Landscape: Where Does Head Start Fit?
  • Early care and education (ECE) system includes child care and education for children birth to age 5
  • ECE is a fragmented “system” of parallel systems
    • Various settings, locations
    • Different originating legislation and regulations, governing structures, systems for monitoring and quality control
    • Separate and combined public and private funding that varies state to state, city to city, year to year
early care and education landscape
Early Care and Education Landscape
  • Head Start & Early Head Start
  • Child Care
  • IDEA
  • State Pre-Kindergarten Programs
  • Parent-Child Home Program
  • Other Early Care and Education Partners
early care and education landscape child care
Early Care and Education Landscape: Child Care
  • Federal CCDF block grant that states can supplement
    • State and local child care funding supplements
    • States can use federal TANF block grant funds
  • Designated “state child care administrator”
  • State administrative rules, e.g., eligibility, priorities
  • State and some local regulations
  • CCDF requires coordination of ALL child care through Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (CCR&R)
  • CCDF designates set asides for quality initiatives and services for infants and toddlers
early care and education landscape child care10
Early Care and Education Landscape: Child Care
  • Subsidized Child Care
    • State-funded child care centers, networks of family child care homes through contracts and grants to local agencies
  • Child Care Subsidies, or Vouchers
    • Used by families to purchase care from licensed and unregulated care providers, including relatives and friends, for the care that best meets their needs
  • Serve children from infants through school-age
early care and education landscape idea parts b c
Early Care and Education Landscape: IDEA Parts B & C
  • Federal funds to states under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    • Part B – Preschool Special Education for ages 3-5
    • Part C – Infants and Toddlers
  • Uses McKinney-Vento definition of homeless
  • Provides for identification, location, evaluation and education of children with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness
    • Individualized Plan
    • Home-based, classroom & consultation models
    • Goal of mainstreaming
early care and education landscape state pre k programs
Early Care and Education Landscape – State Pre-K Programs
  • State funding of preschool services for 4-year-olds or for 3- and 4-year-olds
  • State agencies provide leadership and provide funding to local school districts
    • Both school based and community providers
    • Both targeted and universal designs
    • State Cabinets and integrated state agencies and departments
    • Local councils and community partnerships
  • Most states now have some type of state pre-k system
other potential ece partners
Other Potential ECE Partners
  • Non-profit and philanthropic initiatives
    • e.g., United Way Success-by-Six
  • Local Government
    • County and city programs, children’s libraries, recreation programs
  • Religious and family service organizations
early care education landscape in your world a grid
Early Care & Education Landscape in Your World – A Grid

Work with someone sitting near you to complete the Early Care and Education Infrastructure in My State/ Community for either the state or local level

If you cannot complete a cell, use the Early Care and Education Resource List to find a resource for obtaining the name, contact information you needs to completer our grid.

You will have 5 minutes for this activity.

head start basic overview 1
Head Start: Basic Overview (1)
  • Created under LBJ’s “War on Poverty” initiative ~ 1965

 included other programs & initiatives like Job Corps and Community Action Agencies

  • Originally part of the Office of Economic Opportunity; later transferred to HEW (now HHS) ~ 1969
  • Intended to achieve 2 primary goals:

~ break the cycle of poverty

~ empower low-income families

head start basic overview 2
Head Start: Basic Overview (2)
  • 1,600 grantees in the U.S (and U.S. territories) that serve over 900,000 children (age 0 to 5) annually
    • Early Head Start – pregnant women and children ages birth to 3 years
      • Smaller percent of overall number
      • ARRA will double capacity
    • Head Start – preschool aged children 3-, 4-and 5-year-olds
      • Vary as to number of three’s and four’s
head start basic overview 3
Head Start: Basic Overview (3)

Head Start mandates the provision of COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES to children and families (a unique feature of the program)

  • Health, mental health, dental and nutrition services
  • Education and special education/disabilities services
    • Approximately 20% of children with IEPs served by Head Start
  • Family services thru Family Partnership Agreements, parent involvement and governance, fatherhood initiatives, etc.
    • 20-25% of Head Start staff are current or former Head Start parents
  • Community partnerships
head start basic overview 4
Head Start: Basic Overview (4)
  • Head Start is a discretionary-funded federal program
    • Requires 20% local match
    • May be supplemented with state dollars
    • Approximately 14% cut in actual dollars during 8 years of previous Administration
    • $2.1 billion increase from ARRA, or about 30%
head start basic overview 5
Head Start: Basic Overview (5)

Head Start Program Options

  • Full-day/full-year
  • School day/school year
  • Part day/part year
  • Home-based Model
  • Family child care home (Home Start)
  • Locally designed option

Head Start Act of 2007 allows programs to

explore changing program designs to meet

changing community needs.

head start basic overview 6
Head Start: Basic Overview (6)
  • Enrollment primarily based on federal poverty
  • Not less than 10% of each HS & EHS program’s enrollment must be children with special needs
  • The following families are categorically eligible for HS:

*Families receiving public assistance (e.g. TANF benefits)

*Foster children

*Homeless children (McKinney-Vento education definition)

head start a perfect match for homeless families
Head Start: A Perfect Match for Homeless Families
  • Head Start provides comprehensive services that homeless children may not otherwise receive
  • The Head Start focus on entire family means parents receive assistance in reaching their goals
  • Community partnerships put Head Start in an excellent position to work with all agencies serving homeless families
  • Mandate to identify and serve homeless children means Head Start is a key partner in identifying homeless families with young children and helping school district homeless liaisons carry out their duties
head start and mckinney vento a cross walk of requirements
Head Start and McKinney-Vento;A Cross-Walk of Requirements
  • Both programs share “whole child” perspective: basic needs must be met in order for children to learn and thrive
  • Some legal provisions are identical, others are similar; the nuances and distinctions are important
  • See attached chart for specific areas of comparison
  • Head Start regulations have not yet been published; much depends on their contents
barriers to accessing head start for families experiencing homelessness
Barriers to Accessing Head Startfor Families Experiencing Homelessness
  • Lack of awareness: Head Start programs may not know the definition of homelessness, MV liaisons may not be “fluent” in early childhood systems
  • Lack available slots for all eligible children, especially infants and toddlers, including those who are homeless
  • Lack of capacity for McKinney-Vento liaisons and Head Start programs to do outreach and targeted assistance
  • High mobility
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of documentation for enrollment
new opportunities for homeless families the head start landscape
New Opportunities for Homeless Families: The Head Start Landscape
  • Head Start Collaboration Offices
  • State-based Technical Assistance
  • Regional Technical Assistance
  • State and Regional Head Start Associations
  • Office of Head Start and the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC)
state and local program spotlights
State and Local Program Spotlights
  • Communities must intentionally address the fragmented nature of ECE services, while simultaneously meeting the unique needs of young children without housing
  • Community-driven, based on local and state systems - there is no “one size fits all” model program
  • Program development takes time; always a “work in progress”
  • Collaborative relationships and a dedicated focus on young homeless children are essential!
spotlight denver colorado 1
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (1)

Current enrollment

  • Early Education is serving approximately 4540 preschool children
  • Head Start is serving 285 children
  • The Educational Outreach Program (EOP) at Denver Public Schools has identified 900 students (including 159 four-year-olds) in need of homeless services as of November 5, 2009

Formal MOU between Denver Public Schools and Denver’s Great Kids Head Start, the grantee which funds Denver Public School Head Start

Collaboration between Early Education Department, Head Start and EOP

spotlight denver colorado 2
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (2)
  • Built on a the school district’s history of working to identify and address the needs of homeless families since 1989
  • Title I allocates federal funds to provide staff members who work specifically with children and families in need of homeless services
  • Denver Preschool Program, a local tax payers supported universal preschool program awards tuition credits to preschoolers who are homeless
  • Colorado Preschool Program, a state funded early education program, provides funding for at-risk children
spotlight denver colorado 3
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (3)
  • Homeless children are categorically eligible for Head Start
  • Early Education and Head Start reserve slots at the neighborhood school serving the four largest facilities for homeless families in Denver
  • Communication between Early Education, Head Start and EOP staff to ensure that all are aware of enrollment deadlines
  • As children transition out of Head Start classrooms during the school year, staff and EOP are contacted to see if they have any preschool children in need of services and as new families come to Denver EOP and HS work together to find available slots.
spotlight denver colorado 4
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (4)
  • Head Start family service staff members, who have relationships with the families and communities, support families eligible for homeless services. Family service staff support parents as they complete and submit the residency questionnaire to EOP
  • Head Start provides bus vouchers to Head Start families in need of transportation to school
  • Early Education and Head Start Programs in Denver Public Schools provide a 6.5 hour school day
spotlight denver colorado 5
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (5)
  • Head Start provides full day programs to children, mental health support, parent education, family partnership agreements, health services and parent leadership training
  • EOP supports to Head Start with training on definitions and to identifying families who qualify for homeless services
  • EOP provides information to Head Start staff on services available to and needs of families qualifying for homeless services
spotlight denver colorado 6
Spotlight: Denver, Colorado (6)
  • EOP provides a homeless verification letter to families to verify that they are homeless, so that they can qualify for Head Start and Early Education programs
  • EOP refers Head Start enrolled families to local agencies that will help families obtain necessary documentation such as birth certificates
spotlight denver colorado 7
Spotlight Denver, Colorado (7)
  • EOP refers Head Start enrolled families to free immunization clinics
  • EOP provides bus vouchers to parents with children in grades 1-5. Preschool children ride Denver busses at no charge when accompanied by an adult
  • EOP provides coats, shoes, backpacks and other school supplies to Head Start children
spotlight anchorage ak
Spotlight: Anchorage, AK
  • “Child in Transition” program (CIT) supports young homeless children through LEA funds, Title I, Head Start, McKinney-Vento, Special Education, and private grants
  • CIT program has an early childhood specialist and two part-time educational assistants focused exclusively on needs of young homeless children and their families
  • Programming based on in-depth knowledge of community, homelessness, child welfare and formal and informal partnerships with key ECE collaborators, including Head Start
spotlight anchorage prek s
Spotlight: Anchorage PreK’s
  • Applications/scoring rubric give children who are homeless and in foster care highest points
  • Half day programs daily for 4 hrs plus quarterly home visits
  • 2 slots reserved for homeless children at each school site; CIT program has 15 days to fill openings at beginning of school year, and then when opening occurs during school year
  • All students are screened using the Dial-3, ASQ:SE, PPVT-4
spotlight anchorage cit
Spotlight: Anchorage CIT

Using Title I Part A and ARRA to strengthen ECE infrastructure within district and early childhood community:

-ARRA used for start-up costs-materials, equipment, salaries

-collaborative ASD/Head Start classrooms

-Head Start classroom in ASD building

-Professional Development

-Curriculum and assessment materials

-School district provides transportation to keep children who move in their preschools; ASD busing, gas vouchers, bus passes, contract with municipal transportation

spotlight anchorage head start mou key elements
Spotlight: AnchorageHead Start MOU Key Elements


  • Designate a staff person as the liaison for regular communication.
  • Collaborate with HS staff for the provision of comprehensive services to families.
  • Inform HS staff about opportunities to recruit families for Head Start at appropriate CIT activities.
  • Assist with transitions of students from CIT early childhood programs to HS services.
  • Meet as needed with HS staff for continued program development.
  • Contact CIT families in April to inform them about fall enrollment for HS. CIT will provide HS with contact information for families that are interested in applying to HS.
  • Provide HS staff (Family Advocates and Teachers) with training opportunities relevant to CIT issues.
  • Participate in transition meetings with HS staff when a child transitions from one program to the other.
  • Provide transportation assistance, when possible, to ensure school stability.
spotlight anchorage head start mou key elements37
Spotlight: AnchorageHead Start MOU Key Elements

Head Start:

  • Periodically attend activities for CIT families in order to discuss the Head Start program, distribute applications and answer parent questions.
  • Help parents to obtain and submit the documents required to enroll children in Head Start.
  • Designate a staff person who will be responsible for following up on CIT referrals.
  • Give special exception status to homeless children who are referred by CIT. If HS classrooms require a waitlist, children who are designated “special exceptions” will receive priority.
  • Collaborate annually with CIT to insure accurate and confidential reporting of number of homeless children.
  • Provide CIT with a list of all children enrolled in Head Start (contingent upon parent authorization) in September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and May.
  • HS staff will inform CIT when a CIT referred child enrolls at HS
  • Participate in a transition meeting with CIT staff when a child transitions from one program to the other
spotlight anchorage ak nuts and bolts of collaboration
Spotlight: Anchorage, AKNuts and Bolts of Collaboration

Joint eligibility notification

  • HS faxes homeless referral form to CIT for agency referral
  • CIT faxes to HS ‘homeless verification form’ when initiating referral


  • HS enrolls students and allows them to attend while procurement of required documents are obtained by CIT
  • CIT prioritizes document procurement (30 day window)


  • CIT provides transportation support to families attending HS
  • HS distributes gas coupons to families based on attendance. Early drop off and late pick up is responsive to transportation mode used

Data Exchange

  • HS shares names of all students (with signed releases) in HS program
  • CIT codes child’s temp and perm addresses by school/ locations in DB for easy retrieval and HS recruitment
anchorage lessons learned collaboration with head start
Anchorage Lessons Learned: Collaboration with Head Start
  • Collaboration takes time, commitment, and patience
  • Informal contacts and information sharing
  • Attending common meetings
  • Participating on Head Start committees
  • Trainings for Head Start Family Advocates
  • Formal, ongoing discussions
  • Identifying ‘program liaison's
  • Establishing MOU’s
  • Refining MOU’s
  • Writing joint grants
  • Program collaboration
  • Based in Relationships, Respect and Response
spotlight connecticut
Spotlight: Connecticut
  • History of strong McKinney-Vento State Liaison - Head Start Collaboration working relationship:
  • Co-sponsor cross-training, community planning at local level
  • Read each other’s grant applications
  • Share data, local contact information
  • Webinar on McKinney-Vento definition; share resources
spotlight connecticut 2
Spotlight: Connecticut (2)
  • History of cooperative funding initiatives:
  • Teams, conference registrations
  • State survey
  • Child-focused activities of statewide homeless coalition
  • Grants to communities
putting it all together strategies for awareness and identification
Putting it All Together:Strategies for Awareness and Identification
  • Head Start programs can incorporate questions on housing status on applications
  • McKinney-Vento liaisons can inquire about young siblings of school-age children
  • Head Start programs and liaisons can include information on how to recognize homelessness in staff development/trainings/inservices
  • Head Start can recruit where homeless families live: shelters (including for unaccompanied youth), motels, etc.
putting it all together strategies for building capacity
Putting it All Together:Strategies for Building Capacity
  • Reserve slots for homeless children in Head Start and other ECE programs
  • Explore use of Title I Part A, McKinney-Vento, and school district funding to support young homeless children
  • Explore other funding sources, including United Way
  • Explore local program variations - locally-designed program models
strategies for building capacity 2
Strategies for Building Capacity (2)
  • Designate a “homeless contact” at each Head Start program in your community; make sure each contact is trained and hold regular meetings
  • Designate a “young child” contact at each homeless service program; ensure that this contact is knowledgeable about Head Start, child development, etc.
putting it all together strategies for responding to mobility
Putting it All Together:Strategies for Responding to Mobility
  • Prioritize children experiencing homelessness on waitlists and evaluation schedules
  • Include in parent handbook the importance of notifying the program when moving
  • Develop agreements to enable young homeless children to maintain their slot/placement even if they move out of program service areas
strategies for responding to mobility 2
Strategies for Responding to Mobility (2)
  • Explore transportation services, including gas voucher, reimbursement, existing systems
  • Obtain parental consent for release of information from providers or liaison in order to obtain new addresses and continue to provide services when families move
  • In anticipation of mobility, develop joint procedures to expedite services and provide continuous services for highly mobile children.
putting it all together enrollment strategies
Putting it All Together:Enrollment Strategies
  • Liaisons and homeless service staff can provide Head Start applications to identified families and help them fill them out
  • Expedite records by working together; e.g. liaison can get immunization records, etc. for young siblings of school-age children
  • Incorporate homeless priority in protocols and point systems
  • Develop joint or streamlined procedures and forms (e.g. housing intake forms)
  • Provide some services before families are officially “enrolled” to develop relationships
parent support strategies
Parent Support Strategies
  • Help teachers and providers understand that parents experiencing homelessness may be overwhelmed by feelings of stress or guilt and their ongoing efforts to meet their family’s basic needs. Working with them requires greater patience and flexibility along with a strengths-based approach.
  • Provide parents with bus passes or other transportation assistance to attend appointments.
  • Develop or use existing homeless services directory and provide to parents
  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
  • National Center on Homeless Education
  • National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Office of Head Start
  • Parent Training and Information Centers
    • (888) 248-0822
contact information
Contact Information

Jan Burke Barbara Duffield

Head Start Project Coordinator Policy Director

Denver Public Schools NAEHCY

[email protected]

720.423.8218 202.364.7392

Beth Snyder Grace Whitney, PhD, MPA

Early Childhood Specialist Director

Anchorage School District CT Head Start State Collaboration Office

Child In Transition Program [email protected]

[email protected]