Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Homeless Children Need Preschool

During the recent recession, news reports included some sobering video footage from an area surrounding what’s sometimes called the happiest place on earth, Disney World. Unfortunately, climbing unemployment and home foreclosures in the region had left many middle- and working-class families suddenly homeless. Their new, temporary dwelling places were hotel rooms, the couches of friends and family members, homeless shelters, or the family car.

In fact, nationwide, family homelessness increased by 20 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to the research group Child Trends. More than 1.6 million children are homeless, with 40 percent of them under the age of six.

Although not all homeless children will be impacted in the same way, many pay a high price for their families’ instability, developing developmental delays and health and behavior problems that interfere with learning. For example, homeless children are more likely than children in stable housing to have problems with language, motor development, and social learning. They score lower on achievement tests, tend to perform below grade level, and may struggle to control their behavior in the classroom.

Fortunately, preschool programs and high quality child care can help get children off to a good start by supporting healthy, positive development. These experts suggest making homeless children a priority by providing transportation to early education programs, changing policies that prevent children from enrolling (such as requiring a permanent address), and coordinating the services families need, from food to health care.

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

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