Approximately one million homeless kids are struggling with school. Their uphill battle will break your heart.
Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Imagine having to tell your teacher your homework is late because you had to help your parents pack up and move to a shelter. Or you dozed off in class because you were up worrying about where you were going to sleep the next night.
"The instability of homelessness can be ruinous to schooling," the article quotes educators as saying, for the simple reason that kids already struggling to cope find themselves having to face frequent moves during the school year, and thus missed classes.
This unfortunate, heartbreaking situation has tested school districts already limited by budget cuts as they try to carry out a federal mandate that attempts to salvage the education of these kids, whose lives are filled with "insecurity and turmoil."
"It's hard enough going to school and growing up, but these kids also have to worry where they'll be staying that night and whether they'll eat," said Bill Murdock, chief executive of Eblen-Kimmel Charities, which is based in Asheville, NC, and runs numerous programs to help families in need in the North Carolina area.
According to the Times, "Since 2001, federal law has required every district to appoint a liaison to the homeless who is charged with identifying and aiding families who meet a broad definition of homelessness -- doubling up in the homes of relatives or friends or sleeping in motels or RV campgrounds, as well as living in cars, shelters, or on the streets." Some districts tap federal grants to help the process along.
The law provides some protections for homeless children, allowing them to be placed in school without proof of residence, as well as allowing them to remain in the same school even if their family moves from district to district in search of housing, which helps minimize the amount of time kids are kept out of school. The law also makes it easier for schools and social welfare agencies to work together.
Some of these kids are able to ride special bus services to school from wherever they are living -- shelters, motels, trailer parks, and RV campgrounds -- to facilitate keeping them in their original schools. But providing transportation to the original school is an expensive logistical challenge in large districts like Buncombe County, NC, which covers 700 square miles.
According to Bruce Hunter, associate director of the American Association of School Administrators, "The [law's] protections are important, but Congress has passed the cost to state and local taxpayers." Which brings us to this question: is Congress putting their money where their mouth is?
No child left behind? Really?
Sounds like a lot of these kids will be left behind if they don't come across some help, and soon. It's sad that, in this day and age, there's so little federal aid available for these unwitting victims of the recession. But what saddens me most is the tremendous stress they suffer in just trying to survive and get through another day at school.
Do you think the government could/should step in and help? And if so, how?
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|