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Philly undercounts students who are homeless – here’s what parents need to know to advocate for their child

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Woman and girl wearing backpacks walk down city street

For 1000’s of Philadelphia children, the return to high school this fall was made tougher as a result of they don’t have a safe place to name dwelling.

Throughout the 2021-2022 college 12 months, the latest information out there, the College District of Philadelphia recognized 4,675 youngsters as homeless.

Counting college students was troublesome throughout the COVID pandemic, making year-over-year comparisons troublesome, however the latest numbers are up 9.7% in comparison with the 2018-2019 college 12 months, when the rely was 4,261.

In Pennsylvania, the 2021-2022 rely was 41,126, up practically 24% from the 12 months earlier than.

Analysis suggests the precise numbers are even increased. Pennsylvania lags different states in figuring out youth who’re homeless, and information collected for the 2018-2019 college 12 months suggests Philadelphia specifically underreports. That is notably true for college kids who attend constitution faculties.

Faculties wrestle to establish college students who’re homeless for quite a lot of causes, as a latest research in Detroit makes clear. The research highlights father or mother and guardian lack of information about sources out there, restricted belief from dad and mom in sharing their housing circumstances and inadequate assist from faculties when dad and mom do share this data.

As a professor of counseling who researches homelessness, and a former college counselor who has examined the challenges educators face in supporting homeless youth, I do know it’s crucial that folks and guardians perceive their youngsters’s rights in school to make sure their children get the assist they want.

Know your rights

Dwelling on the streets is just one of some ways children expertise housing loss.

In Pennsylvania, 65% of scholars experiencing homelessness reside in doubled-up conditions – sharing housing briefly with different folks. This consists of dwelling in cramped residences with different households, or usually transferring between mates’ or family members’ homes. About 22% reside in shelters or transitional housing. Others reside in motels or motels, and about 2% are unsheltered.

Given this complexity, some households could not perceive they qualify for sources out there to the homeless. Educators may additionally be not sure.

When college students with out steady housing should not correctly recognized, they miss out on assist below the McKinney-Vento Homeless Help Act, a federal regulation that’s designed to supply safety and help for college kids experiencing homelessness who attend public faculties, and Pennsylvania’s Schooling for Homeless Kids and Youth State plan.

These companies are designed to take away limitations to their enrollment, attendance and success in class.

For instance, college students who’re recognized as homeless can enroll in faculties even once they lack rapid entry to paperwork akin to instructional data, immunization data and proof of residency throughout the college district. They will obtain free transportation to and from their present college even when they transfer out of the district. They will additionally obtain assist from a “homeless liaison,” an individual who ensures the college is assembly the McKinney-Vento necessities, and so they qualify at no cost college breakfast and lunch.

The Philadelphia college district has an Workplace of Pupil Rights and Obligations particularly designed to assist college students perceive their rights, together with supporting college students experiencing homelessness. Homeless liaisons and different employees work with the workplace to establish college students. In line with its web site, the workplace gives tutoring, helps scholar enrollment and transfers, provides college provides and uniforms, and hosts a teen program with an array of companies, together with faculty preparation.

What dad and mom can do

Dealing with housing insecurity is annoying for folks, guardians and youngsters. To extend the chance for a profitable college 12 months, dad and mom can take these steps:

1. Be taught your youngster’s rights: Dad and mom can guarantee their youngsters are getting the companies and helps they’re afforded below McKinney-Vento, akin to transportation to their present college in the event that they transfer briefly out of the district. Reviewing these father or mother sources is an efficient place to start out.

2. Contact the college’s homeless liaison: It’s essential for folks to tell the college’s liaison of their household’s housing standing and if they’ve moved. Liaisons can present details about what occurs subsequent and what sources can be found. This listing lists all the liaisons in Pennsylvania.

3. Determine who else ought to know: Liaisons will maintain details about college students’ housing standing confidential until dad and mom need them to tell the kid’s lecturers or different college personnel. Sharing that data will be useful. For example, if inconsistent housing will affect the kid’s capacity to finish homework or attend college usually, their lecturers can, for instance, assist the kid by being extra versatile with deadlines.

4. Join with the college counselor and social employee: These are trusted adults throughout the college system who’re skilled to supply households with the assist they want in a secure and confidential house. They will join dad and mom and college students with the homeless liaison and sources throughout the college and in the neighborhood.

5. Request digital data: Dad and mom ought to attempt to save all emails that include instructional data from any college their youngster attended every year. Ought to housing circumstances lead households to maneuver shortly, these data will likely be simple to switch to the brand new college. Whereas earlier faculties ought to ultimately switch data, having a report of grades and coursework helps be sure that a scholar is positioned within the applicable programs as quickly as they begin at a brand new college.

6. Notify the college of any transfer: If households want to maneuver exterior of their present college district, they need to notify their youngster’s college as quickly as potential. College students might be able to proceed at their present college regardless of their new deal with. Analysis reveals that feeling linked to buddy teams in addition to lecturers improves highschool commencement charges. Sustaining these relationships over time can profit college students experiencing homelessness.

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