Contact: Devin McMahon, firstname.lastname@example.org, (310) 266-5849
The prevalence of homelessness among infants and young children was previously unknown.
Washington, DC – The national nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection, in partnership with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, released Infant and Toddler Homelessness: Data on Prevalence and Access to Early Learning Programs Across 20 US States, a report that provided the first estimate of homelessness reveals gaps in access to early childhood learning programs among infants and young children in twenty states. This unique analysis shows that an estimated 311,961 children under the age of three were homeless in 20 states in 2020-2021, representing approximately 3% of the 0-3 year old population. In addition, only 7% of these children were enrolled in an early childhood education program (Early Head Start, Child Care, or Parents as Teachers Home Visiting). This means that an estimated 289,741 infants and young children experiencing homelessness in these states were not identified through early intervention programs; many may not even be enrolled.
An estimate of homelessness among the very youngest—infants and young children—was previously unknown. The most recent data on child homelessness comes from the US Department of Education, which estimates that homelessness affected approximately 1.3 million children under the age of six in 2018-2019; however, these data are not disaggregated by age.
Jennifer Erb-Downward, director of housing stability programs and policy initiatives at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan said, “If we’re going to make sure infants and young children have the support they need to thrive, we need to understand this Challenges they and their parents face. So far we have not been able to answer the question of how many children aged 0-3 years are affected by homelessness or whether these children are identified and cared for by our early childhood programs. The numbers in this report give us a starting point and a call to action.”
There are many reasons why families affected by homelessness may have difficulty accessing quality early childhood education programs. For some, the paperwork required for enrollment is too burdensome, as they may have lost access to birth certificates, immunization records, and proof of employment. Other families may be discouraged when placed on a long waiting list or may have difficulty understanding how to begin the enrollment process. A lack of means of transport for registration and participation can stand in the way.
“The low enrollment of infants and young children affected by homelessness in quality early intervention programs requires action at all levels,” said Erin Patterson, director of educational initiatives at SchoolHouse Connection. “Early learning programs can transform the life course of a child and their family, but this report shows that families affected by homelessness still lack access to these opportunities. We hope this is the start of a broader work on system changes to support infants, young children and families affected by homelessness. Our children deserve better.”
“At SchoolHouse Connection, we recognize that early childhood education is an overlooked long-term strategy for overcoming homelessness,” said Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection. “Homelessness is particularly damaging to our youngest children, with lasting consequences. If we are to prevent the longer-term effects of infant and young child homelessness, educators, providers and policymakers must work together to find solutions that give each child the support they need to thrive.”
The report’s data was collected from 20 states – AR, CA, DC, IL, LA, MD, MI, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, WA and WI – Funded by PCI to increase the number of infants, young children and their families receiving quality services by at least 50% by 2025.
SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan estimated the total number of children ages 0 to 3 affected by homelessness in each state by dividing the total population of children ages 0 to 3 covered by the 2020 Child Census reported to the Annie E. Casey Foundation multiplied by the percentage of first graders identified as homeless in the 2020-21 school year, as reported by the US Department of Education. While using the US Department of Education data on homelessness provides a near-population-level census, this approach still provides a conservative estimate of homelessness experience in very young children because it is known that the risk of experiencing homelessness is greater in very young children is compared to children in elementary school, and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in fewer children being identified as homeless in the 2020-21 school year. For more information on the methodology and data sources, see Appendix A of the full report.
About SchoolHouse Connection
SchoolHouse Connection is a national nonprofit dedicated to overcoming homelessness through education. We provide strategic advocacy and hands-on assistance in partnership with schools, early childhood programs, colleges, service providers, families and youth. Our vision is that children and youth affected by homelessness have full access to quality learning, birth through higher education, so that they will never be homeless as adults and the next generation will never be homeless. To learn more, please visit schoolhouseconnection.org