Access to Early Childhood Development Services for Homeless Families with Young Children: An Exploratory Project

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/access_to_early_childhood_development_services_for_homeless_families.pdf

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(HHS) released a new report entitled Access to Early Childhood Development Services for Homeless Families with Young Children: An Exploratory Project.

Homelessness in the United States is a complex and persistent problem. For families with young versus older children experiencing homelessness, solutions are made more elusive by the difficulty of obtaining a clear understanding of their unique needs and characteristics. Little is known about families with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who qualify as homeless under the U.S. Department of Education (ED) definition, but do not reside in homeless shelters or transitional housing, and do not receive public education or participate in Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Most of the literature on homeless children in families is based on analyses of children in shelters or homeless children already in public education systems because this population is more easily accessible.

This policy brief summarizes selected literature on homeless families with children who are less than five years old, and incorporates findings from a project prepared for HHS’ Administration for Children and Families on the challenges facing families with young children who are temporarily staying with others or in motels/hotels.

The aim of this policy brief is to examine the following questions from the project:
(1) What are families’ current living arrangements, and do they have alternative plans for shelter if they cannot stay at their current temporary location and are unable to receive the services of a shelter?
(2) What conditions are homeless families and children exposed to when they cannot or do not access the services of a shelter?
(3) To what extent are families knowledgeable about the federally sponsored early childhood support services available to them? While the small sample size constrains the generalizability of the study’s findings, key findings from the project are provided to highlight and support similar findings.