The Department of Education (ED) has just released the annual report on their “Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program.” Required under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to ensure children who are homeless have equal access to public education, the report reveals that 1,065,794 children enrolled in school are homeless. Up 13% from the 2009/10 school year and surpassing the million mark for the first time, it’s estimated that this official number is half of the actual incidence of child homelessness due to difficulties in accurately counting the transient population.
Further details from the report find that students experiencing homelessness are most often living “doubled-up” in the homes of friends or family and that this nighttime residence experience has increased 27% in the past three years. Of the million plus countable students experiencing homelessness, 883,816 of them were reported as being served through McKinney-Vento funds, an increase of 4% from last year and 43% over the past three years. Still and unsurprisingly, considering the instability they endure, these students are struggling academically with just over half proficient in reading and just over half proficient math standards. Children experiencing homelessness face many of the same challenges to educational success as children in foster care.
Furthermore, the instability of homelessness is also a risk factor for child welfare involvement. While homelessness alone is not child maltreatment, it is a serious family strain and referenced in about half of state’s maltreatment definitions. Housing resources like the Family Unification Program and upcoming supportive housing grants are critical intervention measures for struggling families and prevention of child welfare involvement.