Early Childhood Homelessness

Ensuring the early learning and development of our country’s youngest children is essential to Child Care Services Association’s (CCSA) work. Supporting the well-being of these young children and their families is an urgent task and one that is critical to improving the long-term educational outcomes of children nationwide.

What Research Shows

Research has established a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. We know that homelessness jeopardizes the health, early childhood development, and educational well-being of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to participating in early care and education.

With nearly 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters under the age of five, this is a problem for families, communities, states and the country. And, there are concerns today, that the COVID-19 health pandemic will increase family homelessness even more.

Enhance your knowledge around family homelessness and the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act’s definition of “homeless” as it refers to children and youth.


Below are resources for child care professionals, community members and families to learn more and combat early childhood homelessness.

An Invisible Crisis: CCSA Releases a Primer on Early Childhood Homelessness

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) released this paper which reviews (1) the extant literature on the impact of homelessness on young children’s health, well-being and development, (2) the extant literature on the causes of child and family homelessness, (3) available services and federal funding streams to support young children and families experiencing homelessness. This paper concludes with recommendations to streamline early childhood and homelessness policy to better support young children experiencing homelessness.

CCSA Releases Validated Tool for Homeless Shelters to Provide Positive Environments for Young Children Post-COVID-19

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) released the validated and revised 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.

Addressing the Educational Challenges of Early Childhood Homelessness Through Cross-sector Collaboration & Research Across the Policy Lifecycle

From the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM), this slide deck was presented at the 2020 APPAM Fall Research Conference (November 13, 2020) by:

  • Amy Yamashiro, U.S. Department of Education, OPEPD, OCDO
  • Marsha Basloe, Child Care Services Association
  • Bernadine Futrell, National Head Start Association
  • Mandy Sorge, National Association for Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education
  • Barbara Duffield, SchoolHouseConnection
  • John McLaughlin, U.S. Department of Education, OESE, OFG

Early Childhood Homelessness: A Look at CCDF State Policies for 2019-2021

Families with jobs and secure housing access child care through our country’s Child Care Resource & Referral network, friends and family and the internet. Without child care, families experiencing homelessness struggle to secure housing. And yet, for these families, accessing child care offers two important benefits—the chance to be able to participate in job training, education, and other programs essential to resolving their homelessness and the opportunity to have a safe setting for children to grow!

Families with Children Experiencing Homelessness: FY2019-FY2021 Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) State Plans

CCDF state plan sections mentioning homeless are from publicly available CCDF plans. 

Eight Modules for Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness — Head Start

This interactive learning series is intended for professionals in Head Start, Early Head Start and child care, including early childhood and school-age child care providers, CCDF Lead Agency or designated entity staff and other key stakeholders. Learn how to identify families experiencing homelessness, conduct community outreach, and much more. Look for these modules on Moodle NC soon!

Early Childhood Self Assessment Tool for Family Shelters

Created by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Early Childhood Self Assessment Tool for Family Shelters is a guide to support the safe and healthy development of young children in shelter settings.

This guide is designed to help the shelter environment assist the physical, socio-emotional and intellectual development of children ages 0-5 to support these children through their experience of homelessness. There are a number of links to resources in the tool.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! A Housing and Shelter Provider’s Guide to Developmental and Behavioral Screening

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.

The Early Childhood Self Assessment Tool for Family Supportive Housing

A guide to support the safe, healthy development of young children. Family supportive housing provides essential services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers during a stressful yet promising time in their lives, moving into and settling in a permanent, affordable supportive housing unit of their own! Supportive housing can play a critical role in the safety and the physical, socio-emotional, and intellectual development of children ages 0-5.

Self-Assessment Tool for Early Childhood Programs Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness

A guide to creating early childhood settings that support the safe and healthy development of young children experiencing homelessness. This tool is for early childhood programs as a guide for welcoming and supporting families and children experiencing homelessness into these programs. Early care and education providers play a critical role in identifying and supporting families with young children who are experiencing homelessness and connecting those families to other resources within their community.

Early Care and Education Supports for Young Children Experiencing Homelessness from ACF

The experience of homelessness is a known risk factor for young children’s development and well-being. High-quality early care and education may help children overcome some of the negative factors associated with homelessness. However, states, communities and early care and education providers face many barriers to ensuring access to care for these young children, including challenges with identifying children who are or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

This two-brief series provides important information about access to care for young children and their families who are experiencing homelessness.

Early Childhood Homelessness State Profiles

Policy Statement on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness

This is a joint policy statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education as of October 2016.

Home at Head Start: New National Campaign on Homelessness

This campaign challenges Head Start programs to enroll more children and families experiencing homelessness. Use the featured resources to educate staff and reduce the stigma around homelessness.

Sesame Street in Communities: Family Homelessness

Losing one’s home brings enormous challenges, yet families can be incredibly strong and determined to create a better future. Every family can build a sense of hope and learn ways to cope…and remember that no one is alone.

SchoolHouse Connection

SchoolHouse Connections promotes success for children and youth experiencing homelessness, birth through higher education. SHC engages in policy advocacy and provides technical assistance to states and local communities.

The earlier and longer the duration of homelessness, the greater the toll it takes on a child’s health and development. Babies who experience homelessness are at great risk of harm that can set them back in life. They need our attention and action. Below are two studies on the impact of homelessness before birth and during infancy:

Yay Babies!

Promoting Access to Early Childhood Services for Young Children Experiencing Homelessness.

Building Early Links for Learning (BELL)

Building Early Links for Learning (BELL) is an initiative that aims to promote resilience for young children staying in Philadelphia emergency and transitional shelter with their families. BELL is informed by developmental science which states that resilience is more likely to occur when a child’s and family’s contexts are focused on responding to their needs. BELL is administered by People’s Emergency Center and is currently funded by a grant from the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids TM program.

Child Care Services Association Early Childhood Homelessness Activities

CCSA President Marsha Basloe presents information on early childhood homelessness. Below are recent activities.

  • Increasing Access to Subsidized Child Care for Children Experiencing Homelessness at the NAEHCY Annual Conference with Laura Hewitt, NC DCDEE, and Grace Whitney, SchoolHouse Connection, on Nov. 3, 2019, in Washington D.C. Read more on page seven.

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