A surprisingly high number of young mothers with very young children – infants and toddlers – experience homelessness each year. In some communities, nearly half of homeless families include a mother under the age of 25.
In addition to having very little financial resources to pay for housing, these young moms also often lack support to meet their children’s needs. That’s why rapid re-housing providers who serve homeless families may want to explore working more closely with organizations that are designed to provide early childhood development services.
(The Alliance is working with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to identify and explore these kinds of promising partnerships.)
Rapid re-housing providers reconnect families in shelters to housing by providing them with assistance finding housing and temporary financial assistance to pay for it. But these providers typically lack expertise in assessing the needs of the children, and they may be unaware of services available in the community to promote and support early child development.
Early childhood development programs, such as Early Childhood Home Visitation and programs like Head Start provide tailored support to parents and children. These programs make sure that young children are achieving developmental milestones (e.g. rolling over, crawling, walking, and speaking) and ensure that they are prepared when they enter school.
Many of these programs serve high-need, high-poverty families who struggle with housing and housing instability, but unlike rapid re-housing providers, these programs lack the expertise to help homeless families meet their housing needs.
Building bridges across these two service systems is one way rapid re-housing providers and early childhood development providers can improve their services to needy families. Here are some simple steps:
- Providers can include questions about the needs of children when families apply for shelter as part of a coordinated entry process;
- Provider staff can become aware of the early childhood development programs serving families in their target community so they can make appropriate referrals; and
- Providers can meet with organizations that deliver early childhood development services to explore how to make it easier for children in shelter to connect to services.
- Educate early childhood advocates and leaders on the prevalence and needs of young children who access homeless service systems each year who could benefit from early childhood services.
One notable example of this last step took place this past summer when the Connecticut Early Childhood Cabinet heard presentations from Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and Dr. Anne Farrell, associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies.
These experts proposed improving services to young homeless children by expanding rapid re-housing and coordinating closely with leading early childhood programs (presentations are available here).
If you know of any successful partnerships between housing and early childhood services providers, please let us know. You can email me at email@example.com.