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Federal Strategies Offered on Supporting Homeless Families With Young Children

Having a young child, with the attendant disruption in family and work schedules and the need for child care, often pushes low-income families to the financial brink.

Research shows that individuals are most likely to experience homelessness in infancy up to age 1. The next group most likely to live in shelters or transitional housing are children ages 1 to 5. And these children are at risk for delays in their language and social-emotional development. 

Recognizing these concerns, the federal departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban development have released a joint policy statement that offers best practices for local and state organizations to support homeless families with young children.

The overall theme of the recommendations, released Oct. 31, is that organizations must work together to support vulnerable families. That may mean, for example, that housing providers can help connect families with child-care assistance, programs such as Head Start, or early-intervention programs that are funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

In addition to offering recommendations, the joint policy statement gives several examples of successful programs. For example:

  • A "one-stop" intake center in Washington, D.C., connects families with child care, welfare assistance, employment support, and health care. 
  • In Chicago and Philadelphia, shelter workers are trained to screen children for developmental delays.
  • In Boston, a pilot program puts a priority on pregnant women and families for housing support, allowing them to bypass a five-year waiting list. These families also receive weekly follow-up visits. 

"Everyone who comes in contact with a family experiencing or at risk of homelessness has a responsibility to do their part to ensure that children and families have access to the high-quality services and supports they need," says the policy statement. 

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