The Turner Family: Meet the Family

Mrs. Turner brings her four-year-old granddaughter, Roxanne, into your center to enroll her in Head Start. Mrs. Turner tells you:

"This is my granddaughter Roxanne, and she just started living with me last week. I want to enroll her in your Head Start program. She has two older brothers who are in school all day. I have some health problems, so it’s hard for me to take care of Roxanne all day, so I thought this would be a good place for her. You can see I also have trouble walking, and I go to physical therapy during the day."

Conversation With Mrs. Turner

Before you have a conversation with Mrs. Turner, you may want to look at the Explore Information tab for procedures and tips to help you determine eligibility. Have some initial friendly conversation and then, while a colleague looks after Roxanne, invite Mrs. Turner to talk with you. When you are ready, review the questions below and select the ones you might ask her.

  1. Why aren’t these children living with their mother?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    They just can’t live with their mother right now.

    What Just Happened?

    This question is confrontational and doesn’t help build trust with Mrs. Turner. Furthermore, you didn’t get any information.

    Try another question to see if you can get the information you need to help the family. Questions that are less confrontational and that might make Mrs. Turner more comfortable in sharing information with you include the following:

    • How is it that the children came to live with you?
    • How long will the children live with you?
  2. How is it that Roxanne came to live with you?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    My daughter, Margaret, was sentenced to five years in prison. When that happened, she took her three kids to live with Ginny – she’s her sister. After about three weeks, Ginny decided she couldn’t take care of Margaret’s kids because she has three kids of her own. So one day, Ginny just came by and left Margaret’s kids with me saying she can’t keep them with her.

    What Just Happened?

    Mrs. Turner has given you a lot of information. You know the mom (Margaret) can’t take her children because she’s in prison. Margaret’s sister, Ginny, can’t take care of the kids. Now you need to find out the grandmother’s situation.

  3. You mentioned that Roxanne has two brothers. What are their names, how old are they, and where do they go to school?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    The oldest is Shawn – he’s eight. The other brother, Tommy, is seven. They both go to the elementary school down the street. They stay for after-school activities, too.

    What Just Happened?

    This is helpful information because if you determine that Roxanne is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness, you may be able to connect with the school that Shawn and Tommy are attending and collaborate with the school district's local homeless liaison there.

    Possible follow-up actions include determining who has custody of the children. If the children are in foster/kinship care, they would be eligible for Head Start through foster/kinship care.

  4. How long do you think Roxanne and her brothers will be living with you?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    I don’t know. I’m not sure that I can keep them for the whole time Margaret is in prison, but I don’t know where they can go. Ginny won’t take them back.

    What Just Happened?

    This is a good question to ask. It tells you that Roxanne and her brothers currently have a home with their grandmother, but it is unclear how long this will be the case.

    The grandmother indicating that she doesn’t know how long she can keep the children is important information. It tells you that their living situation is not fixed because the situation is not permanent and is subject to change. Possible follow-up questions include:

    • How long do you think the children can stay with you?
    • Are you looking for another place for them to stay?
    • Do they have other relatives they can stay with?
  5. You mentioned you have some health problems. Would you mind telling me what they are?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    I don’t want to go into all that, but I don’t feel so good. My leg bothers me a lot, so I go to physical therapy for it.

    What Just Happened?

    This gives you some idea of why Mrs. Turner may not be able to take care of the kids for very long. She hasn’t given you a lot of detail, but it appears that she doesn’t want to share that information. What she has told you lets you know that she probably won’t be able to keep the children for very long. You can note her health status and follow up as you begin to build your relationship with her.

  6. You know we can’t just take kids in Head Start because people need babysitters. Why don’t you just take Roxanne to physical therapy with you?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    Well, I can’t do that. It doesn’t look like you can help us. I guess we’ll just leave now.

    What Just Happened?

    It is important to gain the trust of the person you’re speaking with. This question is confrontational and disrespectful. Your question has closed off the conversation.

  7. Do you have any other family members who could help you take care of your grandchildren?

    Mrs. Turner responds:

    I thought Ginny would help, but she said she won’t take them back. I didn’t take them voluntarily. I’m all by myself and it’s hard for me.

    What Just Happened?

    You found out that Mrs. Turner has no one to help her. This is another indication that the children do not have a fixed living situation. You may want to determine whether the situation is short- or long-term based on the recent changes for the children, as well as Mrs. Turner’s current health situation.

    Mrs. Turner’s response offers you an opportunity to try to help her think of someone other than immediate family who could help her, for example, cousins, neighbors, or friends. Let her know that she doesn’t need to answer now, but you could make arrangements to talk with her further and help her make calls or arrangements.

The Turner Family: Explore Information

Before you start the activity, do the following:

  • Consider the Turner family’s circumstances.
  • Review the information in the links below.
  • If possible, discuss information about the Turner family with a colleague.

The Turner Family: Make a Recommendation

Step 1: Review the information about the Turner family (Meet the Family tab).
Step 2: Read background information on eligibility (Explore Information tab).
Step 3: Reflect on "Conversation with Mrs. Turner" (Meet the Family tab).
Step 4: Make a decision about whether the Turner family is experiencing homelessness
and therefore eligible for Head Start services and then inform your ERSEA Manager
of your decision.

What decision will you make?
Is the Turner family experiencing homelessness and therefore eligible for Head Start services?

  1. My decision is that Roxanne is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness because she is not in a fixed living situation.

    The ERSEA Manager comments on your decision:

    Thank you. This is an appropriate decision.

    A key piece of information is Mrs. Turner’s statement that she is not sure how long she will be able to keep the children and she doesn’t know where they can go. This tells you that Roxanne is not in a fixed living situation. Although she has a place to stay right now, it is uncertain how long she will be able to stay in this place.

    A fixed living situation is one that is permanent and not subject to change. Mrs. Turner indicated several times that she doesn’t know how long she can keep the children. This proves that Roxanne and her siblings are not in a fixed living situation. Therefore, Roxanne’s experiences are represented by the homelessness definition in the McKinney-Vento Act and she is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness.

  2. My decision is that Roxanne is not eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness because she is in a fixed living situation.

    The ERSEA Manager comments on your decision:

    There’s a problem with this decision. Let’s think this through.

    Mrs. Turner’s statement that she is not sure how long she will be able to keep the children and that she doesn’t know where they will be able to live is a key piece of information. This tells you that Roxanne is not in a fixed living situation. Although she has a place to stay right now, it is uncertain how long she will be able to stay in this place.

    A fixed living situation is one that is permanent and not subject to change. By saying several times that she doesn’t know how long she can keep the children, Mrs. Turner has indicated that they are not in a fixed living situation. Therefore, Roxanne’s experiences are represented by the homelessness definition in the McKinney-Vento Act and she is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness.

    Please inform Mrs. Turner that Roxanne is eligible to enroll into the Head Start program. Ask Mrs. Turner to come in at her earliest convenience to discuss next steps.

  3. I am uncertain whether Roxanne is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness.
    I asked Mrs. Turner to bring me documentation so I can make a final decision.

    The ERSEA Manager comments on your decision:

    I have a few concerns about this decision.

    Based on your conversation with Mrs. Turner, you have the necessary information. You do not need to ask Mrs. Turner to supply documentation. The fact that Mrs. Turner is not sure how long she will be able to keep the children and she doesn’t know where they can go is a key piece of information. This tells you that Roxanne is not in a fixed living situation. Although she has a place to stay right now, it is uncertain how long she will be able to stay in this place.

    A fixed living situation is one that is permanent and not subject to change. By saying several times that she doesn’t know how long she can keep the children, Mrs. Turner has indicated that they are not in a fixed living situation. Therefore, Roxanne’s experiences are represented by the homelessness definition in the McKinney-Vento Act and she is eligible for Head Start services based on homelessness.

The Turner Family: Meet Another Family

Last Updated: July 9, 2014