Children and youth experiencing homelessness face unique barriers to succeeding in school. As Warren County’s only homeless shelter and provider of homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing programs, Family Promise of Warren County is also aware of the difficulties that many of the children face. Family Promise of Warren County is collaborating with McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless and Youth Program by providing some programming for the children and families of Warren County. FPWC wants to ensure that the children’s emotional well being and academic enrichment are stabilized and enhanced.
This proposal focuses on children’s social and emotional development through after-school activities that will provide academic enrichment and extracurricular opportunities for children in a mainstream environment and ordinary settings. Children report that school is a home to them and a place where they see the same faces, sit in the same seat, and can concentrate on pursuits that can ease their daily troubles. The programs outlined below will assist with their emotional well being and stabilization.
Family Promise of Warren County has developed relationships with the school districts since 2008. We work to ensure that children in our programs have access to school so that they can succeed. Participating and supervising the programming cited below will be Bob Frankenfield, NJ Certified School Social Worker, as well as Housing Stability Case Manager II, Rachel Opdyke, and Housing Stability Case Manager I, Evan Austin.
The programming will outreach all Warren County schools that the children of our families attend. Youth leadership opportunities, drug and alcohol abuse prevention activities, and awareness campaigns will be offered via these partnerships. The programs will be accessible to the entirety of Warren County.
The enrichment and socializing activities will provide opportunities for normalcy and the use of the word “homeless” will be avoided and replaced with the phrase “in transition” to be respectful of the participants who are currently without a home of their own.
Planned activities will include:
Counseling for students who are homeless. The function of a school social worker is to make sure that families have the basic needs met so that when their child comes to school, they can focus on what they have to do in school and not on any chaos or needs that they have outside of school.
Advocacy by a school social worker and Housing Stability Case Manager. They will be a vital asset to the school community: a link between students, parents, school staff, and the school district. Advocating for the child and mobilizing family, school, and community resources to enable the child to learn as effectively as possible
Karate Classes, using an existing partnership with White Crane Karate and a 5th-degree black belt Master, who is also a Phillipsburg police officer and an Ishin Ru karate instructor, will be offered to interested children. These weekly classes will be provided on an ongoing basis at no cost to participants.
A Holiday Gift Program will provide gifts for the children of current and former homeless guests of Family Promise and will be administered by Family Promise Staff.
A Holiday Party will be held at Warren Technical School for current and former guests who were homeless, who will be honored with a dinner catered by Maschio Food Services. There will be small gifts for the children, music, and socialization provided at no cost to attendees.
A Family Game Night will be held at a location to be determined, and tentative venues include a Warren County school, Church or community center.
The Back to School program will provide school supplies, backpacks, socks, and shoes for children.
Computers and Homework will allow current shelter students to have access to the Family Promise Day Center’s computers and wifi for homework, research, and educational games. Students will also have access to Family Promise staff for help with homework. An agency laptop will be provided to families when they are at the host facility in the evenings so that children can complete homework assignments.
Family Style Meals and Games are offered to shelter program participants at their host facility each evening.
SUMMARY OF MCKINNEY-VENTO HOMELESS EDUCATION ASSISTANCE ACT PROVISIONS
The goal of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act is to ensure that each homeless child or youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.
The definition of homeless children and youth is:
Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or have a primary nighttime residence in a supervised, publicly or privately, operated shelter for temporary accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill), an institution providing temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
This definition shall include:
Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are 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; and
unaccompanied youth a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
The McKinney-Vento Act requires every school district to designate a staff person to serve as the Homeless Education Liaison whose role it is to assist homeless students enroll in school and to ensure that they receive the educational services for which they are eligible. (A current list of Liaisons is available on the New Jersey Department of Education web site.)
School districts must immediately enroll homeless students in school, even if they do not have the documents usually required for enrollment − such as school records, medical records or proof of residency. Furthermore:
homeless students have a right to either remain in their school of origin or to attend school where they are temporarily residing;
students who choose to remain in their school of origin have the right to remain there until the end of the school year in which they get permanent housing;
Homeless Education Liaisons must assist students who arrive without records by contacting the previously attended school system to obtain the required records.
School districts must adopt policies and practices to ensure that transportation is provided, at the request of the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth, to and from the school of origin. Furthermore:
if the homeless student continues to live in the area served by the district in which the school of origin is located, that district must provide or arrange transportation;
if the homeless student moves to an area served by another district, though continuing his or her education at the school of origin, the district of origin and the district in which the student resides must agree upon a method to apportion responsibility and costs for transportation to the school of origin; and
if the districts cannot agree upon such a method, the responsibility and costs must be shared
ACCESS TO COMPARABLE SERVICES
Homeless students are to be provided services and education programs comparable to those received by other students and for which they meet eligibility criteria, such as services provided under Title I or similar state or local programs; programs for students with disabilities; programs for students with limited English proficiency; vocational or technical programs; gifted and talented programs; and school nutrition programs. NOTE: To expedite the delivery of nutritional benefits, school officials may accept documentation that students are homeless from the local educational liaison or the director of homeless shelter where the students reside as the determination of eligibility for free lunch.
ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL
An important goal of McKinney-Vento is to afford homeless preschoolers the same opportunity to enroll, attend and succeed in preschool as non-homeless preschoolers, thereby minimizing their educational disruption due to homelessness. School District Homeless Education Liaisons and early care and education providers, including child development and preschool program personnel, child care resource and referral agencies and other service providers, must coordinate and collaborate to review and revise practices, or policies that inadvertently act as barriers to the enrollment of homeless children in child care and early education programs.
If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the local school district must immediately enroll the homeless student in the school in which enrollment is sought − pending resolution of the dispute − and must provide the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth with both a written statement of the school placement decision and a notice of the right to appeal the decision. The school district must refer the unaccompanied youth, parent or guardian to the homeless education liaison, who will expeditiously carry out the dispute resolution process. The final decision in such a situation may reside with the New Jersey Department of Education.
UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH & CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN STATE CARE OR CUSTODY
Unaccompanied youth are youth who are homeless; not in the physical custody of a parent/guardian; and not in the custody of a state agency. This definition includes youth living on the street, in inadequate housing, denied housing by their families, those who have left home voluntarily, even when their parent/s want them to return home, and youth doubled up with friends or relatives.
Unaccompanied youth or students in state care or custody who are awaiting foster care are entitled to the same educational rights and services, including transportation, under McKinney-Vento as any homeless child or youth in the care of their parent(s)/guardian(s).