Educating Homeless Children
Children with no permanent residence lack a sense of security, are frequently ill, unable to concentrate and may exhibit unruly or withdrawn behavior and below average academic performance. If these children and their families do not receive the help they need, the cycle of being impoverished and having a multitude of problems will likely continue.
|by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Regular contributor to the Gazette
March 1, 2009
In 1987, the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act became law. Its purpose was to protect the educational rights of homeless children by mandating that states remove barriers that prevent these students from receiving a quality education. The law has been amended several times to be more inclusive. It requires states to review their school residency laws and revise any that prevent homeless children from receiving an appropriate education with minimum disruption. School officials are obligated to facilitate student enrollment and placement, expedite records, and make transportation arrangements.
School personnel often coordinate the delivery of a wide variety of social support services for these children. They can include breakfast and lunch, after-school programs, counseling, school supplies, hygiene products, clothing, and physical, dental and mental health services. Summer sessions, preschool programs, and tutoring can also be offered. Assistance to the parents of homeless children is often provided.
The nature of homelessness needs to be understood. Homeless families have no shelter of their own, are often hungry and may need medical or mental health assistance. They live in emergency or transitional shelters, cars, campgrounds, bus stations, or abandoned buildings. When families double up with friends or relatives they are considered homeless, as are migratory workers with children. They are homeless for a variety of reasons including the absence of strong family ties, illness, unemployment, divorce, decrease in public assistance, mental illness, drug addiction, domestic violence, or other serious problems. Many homeless parents have jobs, yet are unable to afford housing. Families may be chronically homeless or homeless for a short period of time.
Many of these families experience feelings of shame. Parents are often embarrassed by their situation and children fear being stigmatized by their peers. The lack of financial resources can cause parental preoccupation with problems and stifle their ability to be emotionally available for their child or children.
Children who have no permanent residence lack a sense of security. They are frequently ill, unable to concentrate and may exhibit unruly or withdrawn behavior. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, fear and anger take a toll on these students and usually result in low self-esteem, poor social skills, and below average academic performance.
The severity of these children’s problems is often related to the length of time they are exposed to a homeless lifestyle. If these children and their families do not receive the help they need, the cycle of being impoverished and having a multitude of problems will likely continue.
How can teachers assist homeless children?
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