More than 1 million children ages birth to 6 experience homelessness in the U.S. These children are automatically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start. Homelessness is a circumstance families may experience when they are faced with such challenges as extreme poverty and lack of affordable housing. It can also occur when a family's current living situation becomes unsafe or unstable.
Homelessness is a state of vulnerability for children and families. It can expose families to physical, mental, and developmental risks. Families experiencing homelessness often keep their situation and circumstances hidden from friends, professionals, and others because they feel ashamed or embarrassed. Head Start programs can provide needed support to children and families. Help reduce the impact of homelessness by building close, positive, and trusting relationships with families.
Explore relevant eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment, and attendance (ERSEA) strategies and resources for supporting families in your program.
Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness: Key Resources
This interactive learning series includes eight 30-minute modules to enhance your understanding of homelessness. Learn how to identify, enroll, and support children and families with unstable living situations.
Use this tool to determine a child and family's situation or status using the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act's definition of "homeless children and youth."
Building Responsive Relationships with Families
Consider how you might enhance what you already do to partner with families experiencing homelessness. Use this tool to reflect on your program's relationship-building practices and plan for next steps in supporting families experiencing homelessness.
Explore strategies for responding effectively to parents and the difficult topics they can bring to Head Start staff.
Staff and Partners
Working with families is a rewarding and challenging experience. Programs can provide support to staff in ways that mirror the supports they provide to parents. Explore this resource to learn more about the parallel process.
A key strategy for identifying and reaching out to families experiencing homelessness is to work with local partners. Use this worksheet to identify local and state partners to support identification and outreach.
Family Homelessness: State and Community Maps
Explore three interactive maps with data and key contact information to support Head Start programs in their efforts to recruit and serve children and families experiencing homelessness.
The "Home at Head Start" Campaign
Visit Sesame Street with Dr. Bergeron and get inspired to serve more children experiencing homelessness. Discover resources for families who need a home at Head Start.
In a special message to Policy Council members, Dr. Bergeron suggests ways parent and community leaders can aid greater outreach, enrollment, and support for children and families experiencing homelessness. It also includes discussion questions to consider.
In her April 2019 vlog, Dr. Bergeron highlights several programs who share their approaches for serving families experiencing homelessness. She also answers questions about home-based services and homelessness.
Stay connected on Twitter to learn about the many exciting ways programs are doing their part to give children and families a "home at Head Start." Share your program's efforts using #HomeatHeadStart.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Office of Head Start
Last Updated: August 14, 2019