Early Childhood

Participants in the Sarasota YWCA’s McKinney-Vento program

According to the Administration for Children and Families, over one million children under six were estimated to have experienced homelessness in 2013-2014. In the United States, infants under age one are most likely to enter shelter and transitional housing programs, followed by ages one to five.

Homelessness can harm children before they are even born. Research shows that pregnant women experiencing homelessness are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care than housed mothers, and their children are at increased risk for low birth weight. Low-birth weight has been demonstrated to jeopardize a child’s cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. Homelessness in early childhood has been found to be associated with delays in language, literacy, and social-emotional development, putting children at risk for later academic problems. A 2015 study found that the younger and longer a child experiences homelessness, the greater the cumulative toll of negative health outcomes, which can have lifelong effects on the child, the family, and the community.


SchoolHouse Connection is intensifying our work to increase access to early care and education for young children experiencing homelessness. When the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) announced a grant opportunity to move toward that goal in North Carolina, we jumped at the opportunity to join on-going efforts in the state to create models we can share across the country. Read more about our new initiative.


  • Head Start provides comprehensive early childhood services for families with youth children. The Head Start Program Performance Standards, updated in September, 2016, include many new rules on serving children and families experiencing homelessness. This three-page brief summarizes the Head Start Program Performance Standards related to homelessness.
  • The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is a federal and state partnership program that provides financial assistance to low-income families to access child care, so they can work or attend a job training or educational program. The final CCDF regulations were published in September, 2016, and contain new requirements for serving children and families experiencing homelessness. Read our Federal Child Care Regulations and Homelessness summary to learn more.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act to include preschools specifically within the definition of “school of origin.” To determine whether a particular early childhood education program is a “preschool” under ESSA, a helpful reference is the definition ED uses for McKinney-Vento data collection. This flow chart provides a guide to that definition.


  • Idaho’s training for child care programs teaches key strategies to promote the Protective Factors specifically in families who are homeless. Read more.
  • Schoolhouse Link in Sarasota, Florida is making the most of Florida’s child care priority for homeless families to help school-age parents get the help they need to obtain their education. Read more

We are currently selecting additional resources to help you learn about the needs of young children experiencing homelessness, and how communities can meet their needs.

Stay in touch with us to learn about new resources as we produce and collect them.

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