Homelessness continues to affect the lives of thousands of young children in New York and across the country. In addition to health and safety concerns, homeless children and youth also face many challenges when seeking access to education. In order to address these barriers, the U.S. Department of Education has recently released guidance to states and school districts on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that aim to support homeless children and youth. The new provisions will ensure access to education and protection to homeless children and youth, and will provide them with support for their individual needs. The guidance is intended to help states and school districts best implement the new law by providing them with critical tools and resources necessary to increase the educational success of homeless children and youths throughout their academic careers.
Although the law will impact all homeless children and youth, the new provisions demonstrate an increased focus on preschool-aged homeless youth. For example, the new provisions strive to ensure that all preschool-age homeless children have access to public preschool programs. These children must also have the opportunity to receive supportive services, including speech therapy, psychological counselling, and medical evaluations, if eligible. Additionally, the provisions stipulate that states and school districts must provide school stability across age-groups and grade levels to ensure that even preschool-aged homeless children can remain in the same school throughout the academic year. With these new provisions, all children across the U.S. will have access to excellence, and will receive the tools necessary to become successful adults.