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Families Experiencing Homelessness

Strategies Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness

  • Same definition of homelessness used by Head Start and the U.S. Department of Education programs
  • Priority for services
  • Grace period on immunizations
  • Flexibility in defining “protective services”
  • Training and technical assistance
  • Outreach

“Stable access to high-quality child care provides tremendous benefits to all children, especially our nation’s most vulnerable children. Children and their families who experience homelessness face many challenges. Improving access to child care can buffer children and families from the challenges and risks associated with homelessness by supporting children’s learning and development in safe, stable, and nurturing environments.” [1]

Lead Agencies must establish specific procedures to allow families experiencing homelessness access to the child care program. Families who are experiencing homelessness are supported in accessing child care subsidies and providers in a number of ways:

Families Experiencing Homelessness

  1. Definition of homelessness: CCDF now requires Lead Agencies to use the same McKinney-Vento definition used by Head Start and the U.S. Department of Education programs (Section 725 of Subtitle VII–B). Using a common definition across federal programs will lead to better consistency in identifying children and in information collection. In the definition’s most simple form, children are considered experiencing homelessness if they “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” [2]

    More specifically, the term includes:

    • Children and youth who are
       
      • sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as doubled-up);
      • living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
      • living in emergency or transitional shelters;
      • abandoned in hospitals; or
      • awaiting foster care placement.
    • Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
    • Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
    • Migratory children who qualify as experiencing homelessness because they are living in circumstances described above.
  2. Priority: The final rule added in children experiencing homelessness as one of the groups meeting “priority for child care services,” (along with children of families with very low family income and children with special needs). Priority may be shown by

    • prioritizing enrollment,
    • waiving copayments,
    • paying higher rates for access to higher-quality care, or
    • using grants or contracts to reserve slots for children experiencing homelessness.

 

Lead Agencies must meet certain requirements specific to serving children experiencing homelessness, including allowing children to be enrolled in CCDF services after the initial eligibility determination, even if their parents need additional time to provide all documentation. Access to care is further supported by requiring the Lead Agency to pay any amount owed to the provider for services provided if, after all documentation is provided to the Lead Agency, the family is determined ineligible. (Such payments will not be considered improper payments). [3]

  1. Grace period on immunizations: Lead Agencies must establish a grace period to allow children who are experiencing homelessness to receive CCDF services while their families are taking the necessary actions to comply with immunization and other health and safety requirements. By allowing families experiencing homelessness a grace period to obtain or provide proof of their immunizations, children in these families are able to access care more quickly. In meeting this requirement, Lead Agencies must also do the following:

    • Consult with the appropriate state or tribal health department to establish the length of the grace period.
    • Coordinate with other relevant agencies in an effort to help families receiving services during the grace period comply with immunization and other health and safety requirements. Because of the importance of immunizations in protecting children’s health, the Administration for Children and Families strongly encourages Lead Agencies to implement systemic supports to ensure that children get immunized. [4]
  1. Protective services: As described in Protective Services, the Lead Agency can determine which vulnerable populations meet the definition for protective services—which can be different from the traditional child welfare or foster care definition. Lead Agencies have the flexibility to include children experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations in their definition of protective services. [5]

  2. Training and technical assistance: The state must use CCDF funds for activities to improve the quality or availability of child care, including training and technical assistance to providers on identifying and serving children and families experiencing homelessness. [6]

  3. Outreach: In addition, the state must conduct outreach specifically to families experiencing homelessness to ensure that children have access to child care services.


 

[1] Office of Child Care. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund final rule frequently asked questions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/ccdf-final-rule-faq

[2] Section 725 of Subtitle VII–B of the McKinney-Vento Act (42 U.S.C § 11434a); Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. § 98.2 (2016).

[3] Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program, 81 Fed. Reg. 67,438, 67522 (Sept. 30, 2016) (codified at 45 C.F.R. pt. 98);  Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. § 98.51(a)(1)(ii) (2016);
Office of Child Care. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund final rule frequently asked questions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/ccdf-final-rule-faq

[4] Office of Child Care. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund final rule frequently asked questions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/ccdf-final-rule-faq

[5] Ibid.

[6] Office of Child Care. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund final rule frequently asked questions. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/ccdf-final-rule-faq