State Examples: ACCESS for Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness
This following examples from States address innovative and effective strategies to support children and families experiencing homelessness. This information consists of direct excerpts from current approved Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plans for FY 2016–2018. Minor revisions have been incorporated to enhance readability.
Children and families experiencing homelessness are categorically eligible for Head Start, Early Head Start and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs, meaning that regardless of income, families experiencing homelessness, as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act defines, are eligible for Head Start program services. Families are referred to Head Start programs from the Early Learning Coalitions (ELCs), LEAs and community homeless coalitions. This makes CCDF funds available for other families.
The Florida Office of Early Learning (EOL), through collaboration with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) designated lead agency on homelessness, is dedicated to providing accessible, affordable and quality early learning services to children and families experiencing homelessness. The DCF's Office on Homelessness recognizes 28 lead agencies that provide continuum of care services for homeless families in the state of Florida. These agencies create the framework for a comprehensive array of supportive services and emergency, transitional and permanent housing to address the various needs of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Children are eligible for school readiness services if they are in the custody of a parent who is considered homeless, with DCF-designated lead agency on homelessness verification.
A memorandum of agreement between early learning coalitions and DCF's Office on Homelessness-designated lead agencies establishes the process for collecting the required eligibility documentation. The designated lead agency's case manager with whom the family is working will initiate the referral process if the case manager determines that the family needs child care. The case manager may request school readiness services for the referred families…. In order to qualify and remain eligible for services, the child's parent(s) must actively participate in case management services through one of DCF's Office on Homelessness-designated lead agencies.
The county department of job and family services agencies throughout the 88 counties in Ohio do a variety of outreach to homeless families to improve access to child care services. County agencies work closely with homeless shelters to assist families in need and also work with local domestic violence shelters to help those displaced due to domestic violence issues. Many county agencies have constant communication with homeless shelters. County agency staff participate in meetings such as the homeless task force, where information is shared with all agencies involved in homelessness. County agencies also coordinate bi-monthly linkage meetings that social service providers in the county attend (including the school homeless coordinators, homeless shelters, and many others). Providers give updates and share information in order to better address the needs of the homeless population.
Other county agencies provide outreach by giving out child care applications at the county's Project Homeless Connect event each year. This is a one-day service event for those who are homeless or housing insecure. Some county agencies send pamphlets to all known area homeless shelters explaining the program and how to secure child care services. School districts in certain counties have grants for homeless outreach coordinators and will connect families with those resources, including our child care program. Homeless shelters and homeless services providers in certain counties bring the customers to the county agency and assist them with completing the child care application. The county has a homeless event every January that coincides with the "Point in Time Count" where agencies share information with the customers on what is available to them within the county. The child care resource and referral agencies also provide outreach to homeless families. Relationships have been established with homeless shelters and schools in their regions. Consumer education information is made available at food banks, homeless shelters, and public preschools. Child care resource and referral agency staff work directly with homeless families to assist in finding child care.
CDD intentionally coordinates with programs serving homeless children in several ways: As part of a broad Agency of Human Services effort to end family homelessness by 2020, CDD is responsible for an ad hoc working group to identify and address common barriers for homeless families accessing Early Learning and Development (ELD) programs and services and ensure coordination between local homeless Continuum of Care partners and ELD programs and service providers including Head Start. As part of this effort there is a plan to develop and deliver training for ELD providers on providing services to children and families impacted by the trauma of homelessness.
Specialized Child Care Services (SCCS) is a component of Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) [see description above] that identifies and supports high quality early learning and development (ELD) programs with the capacity to serve highly vulnerable populations (including homeless children) and links vulnerable populations of children participating in the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CC FAP) to these programs through specialized eligibility and referral services. Vermont’s Early Learning Challenge Grant includes a project designed to enhance and expand SCCS with a goal of ensuring that all ELD programs for children with high needs are of high quality and that staff in those programs receive specialized training to support children and families facing environmental or developmental challenges. ELD programs approves as Specialized Child Care Programs receive a 7-10% premium on payment for child care services provided to certain vulnerable populations of children eligible for CCFAP.
The Child Development Division administers a statewide Strengthening Families Grant Program with a primary goal of ensuring affordable access to high-quality comprehensive Early Learning and Development programs for children and families challenged by economic instability and other environmental risk factors.
The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) has developed a rule that was taken to the Social Services Commission in December 2015 for a vote to publish. This rule includes the definition of homeless as a link to the McKinney-Vento Act language. Local purchasing agencies can prioritize children experiencing homelessness using the definition. DCDEE updated the application for childcare services and the revised application was implemented by January 2016. In some local purchasing agencies, there is coordination with the homeless shelters to place children into subsidy services. The Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership grantees identify families that meet the definition of homeless and refer them for subsidy services. DCDEE continues to consult with the NC Head Start State Collaboration Office and the NC Department of Public Instruction Homeless Education Program Office to build on NC efforts to reach children and their families who are experiencing homelessness and need access to CCDF-funded programs. The NC Head Start State Collaboration Office joined with the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Homeless Education Program and extended services through the local education framework.
The state will collaborate and partner with the NC Department of Public Instruction Homeless Education Program and the NC Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership initiative to learn about training, technical assistance and best practices currently used to help CCDF providers learn how to identify and serve children and families experiencing homelessness in quality childcare settings. DCDEE will adapt established training, technical assistance, resources and practices on identifying and serving children and their families experiencing homelessness for CCDF providers. The NC Head Start State Collaboration Office joined with the NC DPI's Homeless Education Program and extended services through the local education framework. DCDEE will use the model in place for Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership grantees who identify families that meet the definition of homeless and refer them for subsidy services. DCDEE will extend an invitation to these partners to extend these efforts for joint planning learning from NC Head Start and NC DPI's Homeless Education Services and conduct needs assessments to identify and coordinate outreach and family supports, joint communications, briefs, training and technical assistance (online, videos, tutorial videos, webinars, printed resources) to CCDF-funded programs.