One in every 16 children under six years old in the U.S. classifies as homeless, jeopardizing their health, development and well-being. The updated and validated Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool, released by Child Care Services Association (CCSA), supports shelters to provide positive environments for young children.
Chapel Hill, N.C., May 26, 2020: Very young children are not the population typically associated with homelessness. Yet, more than 1.4 million children under 6 years old, or one in every 16 children in the United States, were classified as homeless in 2017-2018, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education. This staggering number will likely grow exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to sending thousands more children into unstable housing situations. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) recently released the updated and validated Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters specifically designed to help shelter staff create safe, developmentally appropriate environments for young children and their families. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) originally developed the Self-Assessment tool in 2014, and has supported and participated in the validation and revision process.
“Homelessness jeopardizes the health, development and well-being of all children, and especially infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children,” said CCSA President Marsha Basloe, “and makes it challenging for these young children who are in the key developmental years of early childhood. Homelessness is devastating for young children and their families, and COVID-19 will exacerbate this problem. The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters will help family shelters understand the needs of young children in their care and learn about the resources available to support these young children.”
Infancy is the age at which a person is most likely to live in a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shelter (Family Options Study, 2015), and children experiencing homelessness are at increased risk for health issues, developmental delays, academic underachievement and mental health problems.
Infants and toddlers are particularly affected by homelessness, with increased risk for early harm to their health and development, poor caregiver health and maternal mental health and additional hardships for families. According to Pediatrics, pregnant mothers who experience homelessness are more likely to have babies who are hospitalized following birth and are evaluated to be in fair or poor health, compared to infants whose mothers were never homeless (Sandel, et al., 2018).
With more than 100 criteria, the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters, validated by Dr. Sara Shaw before she joined Child Trends through her dissertation at the University of Delaware, provides recommendations and information that shelters can use to assess their physical environments and programmatic capacities to offer safe and healthy living situations for young children. The tool lists numerous ways shelter staff can connect to resources for families including child care, Head Start/Early Head Start and pre-K programs, thereby providing access to high-quality early learning environments for children experiencing homelessness. Finally, the tool offers a planning form to help shelters set goals and make improvements.
“Children develop rapidly in the first years of their life and are influenced by their environments, experiences and relationships. Housing providers work tirelessly to support families, but housing systems are not always designed with the specific needs of young children in mind. The Self-Assessment tool can help housing providers think through creative ways to make their programs more developmentally friendly for their youngest residents,” Dr. Sara Shaw said.
CCSA anticipates wide use of the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters across the country to support young children and their families who are experiencing homelessness, as well as shelters committed to strengthening their programs for children and families. CCSA is also working on a 50-state strategy to implement this tool.
Child Care Services Association
Founded in 1974, the mission of Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality child care for all young children and their families. Using a holistic approach, CCSA supports children and families, helps child care professionals improve the quality of early education children receive and ensures all families can afford and access the high-quality early care and education that is so important for a child’s early development. Through its Meal Services Program, CCSA also provides nutritious meals to children at child care centers, where they may eat 50-100 percent of their meals. Our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, Child Care WAGE$® and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® programs give child care professionals the means to obtain an education and supplement their salary based on that education. CCSA also licenses T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ across the U.S. and conducts early childhood systems research and policy development statewide and nationally. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org.