Early Childhood

Participants in the Sarasota YWCA’s McKinney-Vento program

Homelessness harms young children. 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. 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.

Early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Yet homelessness creates unique barriers to accessing and participating in early childhood programs. Several federal laws, including the McKinney-Vento Act, the Head Start Act, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, address these barriers with requirements for identification, outreach, enrollment, and coordinated support.

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.





  • Childproofing Checklist for Housing and Homeless Service Providers
    • The quality of the very early years of a child’s life is predictive of lifelong health, educational attainment, and economic security. Unfortunately, many housing and homeless service systems and programs are ill-equipped to provide the resources and support that infants, young children, and school-aged children and their families need. This tool is designed to help housing and homeless service providers make their spaces, practices, and policies safe for children.
  • Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood Education.
    • Quality early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s health and well-being, and help families experiencing homelessness regain stability. Local educational agency (LEA) McKinney-Vento liaisons and homeless service providers funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are required by law to connect families experiencing homelessness to early childhood programs. The first in a new SHC series, this guide is designed to help LEA liaisons and homeless service providers develop a basic understanding of, and build partnerships with, five key early childhood programs.
  • Preschool to Prevent Homelessness: Research, Rights, and Resources.
    • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act in several important ways to increase access to preschool programs. This page contains frequent questions and answers about preschool and homelessness, and links to resources to help implement the new policies.
  • Increasing Access to PreK and Other Early Childhood Programs for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness.
    • The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), the Head Start Program Performance Standards, and the Child Care Development Fund regulations contain new requirements for identifying and supporting young children experiencing homelessness.This webinar, recorded on June 27, 2017, provides a brief overview of these policies as well as practical suggestions for implementing them at the local and state level. School district and state education agency leaders describe the steps that they have taken to put policies into practice, and offer suggestions for adapting and replicating these practices to support our youngest children experiencing homelessness. Download the Powerpoint and sample tools and forms here.
  • Three-page brief summarizing the Head Start Program Performance Standards related to homelessness.
    • 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.
  • A summary on Federal Child Care Regulations and 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.
  • Is My Early Childhood Program a McKinney-Vento “Preschool”?
    • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

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