Impediments Confronting Homeless Children (September 2017)
On Thursday, September 28, members of the Everychild Foundation convened to discuss the challenges of children facing homelessness. The gathering was held at the home of Board Member Emeritus Denise McCain-Tharnstrom, Founder of Our Children LA, a nonprofit that connects these youths with web-based resources and support systems.
As part of the Nancy Daly Salon Series, speakers Tanya Tull, ScD, Founder and President of Partnering For Change, and Melissa Schoonmaker, Consultant II, Homeless Education, Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), shared their research on the large number of Los Angeles’ children affected by homelessness and the significant impact on their physical health, cognitive development and social and emotional well-being.
Schoonmaker, who serves as LACOE’s Homeless Liaison, supports 80 school districts and over 200 charter schools within Los Angeles County to meet the educational needs of the nearly 63,000 youth identified across the county as lacking a permanent home.
“Homeless children are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and more likely to score poorly on standardized assessments,” Schoonmaker said. “87% of such children do not finish high school.”
According to Schoonmaker, some of these problems can be alleviated with increased state and federal funding, a statewide data system and access to needed resources, such as school supplies, transportation and counseling. Schoonmaker believes that no single system can meet all of the needs of young children and parents experiencing homelessness; cross-system collaboration is critical. The goal is high quality, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and improved physical and mental health.
Tull added that frequent mobility and stress associated with unstable housing not only inhibits healthy child development, but may also lead to child abuse and/or neglect. Her agency, Partnering for Change, promotes and facilitates strategies in the community that ensure access to stable and adequate housing for child and family well-being. She believes that early intervention and timely responses to indicators of housing distress can help stabilize a precarious housing situation before the problem can escalate. Her organization identifies and addresses the challenges that each family faces with individualized approaches from improving a family’s housing to helping them relocate to more affordable neighborhoods.
“There is always something we can do. It may be out of the box, but that’s what innovation is all about,” Tull said.