The age at which a person is most likely to be in a homeless shelter in the United States is infancy. Many studies confirm the value of early childhood education for children experiencing homelessness, as well as its impact in preventing future homelessness. For example, new longitudinal research found that children who received high quality early care and education services are significantly more likely to be employed full-time and have more financial and personal assets by their early forties. Full-time employment and assets are strong protective factors against homelessness.
That’s why 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.
We are pleased to announce that DCDEE awarded the grant to the Salvation Army of Wake County and SchoolHouse Connection. The Salvation Army’s Project CATCH is a national leader in research and practice on connecting young children experiencing homelessness to early care and education services. Many other partners will contribute their expertise as well, including Dr. Mary Haskett, Director of the Family Studies Research Team at NC State University; Diane Nilan of Hear Us; Lisa Phillips, the North Carolina McKinney-Vento State Coordinator; and McKinney-Vento liaisons Christine Craft and Kate Perrotta, who founded the Early Childhood Shelter Initiative in western North Carolina.
With this “dream team,” we will develop an evidence-based train-the-trainer curriculum, family outreach program, and awareness and technical assistance materials. Our work will build on federal child care, Head Start and McKinney-Vento Act requirements to identify young children experiencing homelessness, prioritize them, and enroll them in early education programs immediately. Through this grant, SchoolHouse Connection will create and evaluate models that will increase the enrollment of young children experiencing homelessness enrolled in child care, Head Start and preschool programs.
Many thanks to our wonderful North Carolina partners! We look forward to working with this team to make a difference in North Carolina and around the country.