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Literature Review: Education Network of Resources for Homeless Students and Families 

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Literature Review:

Education Network of Resources for Homeless Students and Families


Recently there has been a note in the rise of homelessness across the nation. As reported by the National Center for Homeless Education, in the 2011-2012 school year, 1,168,354 students were identified as experiencing homelessness in U.S. schools, about a 10% increase from the previous 2010-2011 school year, (1,065,794). Homelessness can have several negative impacts on a child’s health, students experiencing homelessness can suffer from poor nutrition, severe emotional stress, and higher exposure to violence, and several health risks (National Center for Homeless Education NCHE, 2014). Additionally, frequent moving and upheaval eliminate feelings of safety, stability, and predictability. Schools and other resources are used in an effort to provide students with stability, safety, and valuable interactions to counteract the negative impacts of their conditions of homelessness (Miller, Homeless Families' Education Networks': An Examination of Access and Mobilization, 2011) (Anderson, Grothaus, Knight, & Lorelle, 2011). Specifically, I will be discussing the resources found for homeless students, within the entire education resource network. The focus of this review will ask the question, through what means (person, place, organization, and policy) do homeless families discover resources and how do these resources affect their situation. Several trends across the literature discussed “key actors” and “agencies”, important to the delivery of services to homeless students and their families. I divided the literature into five broad hubs of resources including: policies, residential agencies and shelters, schools, community based programs, and valued relationships.  Across the six articles explored in this review the five hubs of resources are discussed assessing the positives and negatives of the social services delivery system for homeless families, within the education network. It is important to keep in mind that each article comes from different geographic locations within the United States, although the majority discuss urban areas, it traverses several school districts, states and cities, with various regulations in addition to those discussed in the literature.

Policy

The largest influence on the resources available to homeless students and their families are policies specifically designed to address homelessness. Within the education network the policy that affects students and their rights the most is the McKinney Vento Act. The McKinney Vento Act defines homelessness as those “without a fixed, regular, and adequate night time residence” (Pavlakis, 2014, p. 4) (Losinski, Katsiyannis, & Ryan, 2013, p. 92). The Act was formulated to provide services to homeless students, through increased identification, combating barriers of transportation and student mobility, quick enrollment regardless of records and creating a network within schools that ensures their ability to achieve (Losinski, Katsiyannis, & Ryan, 2013). However, it shown that the execution of these stipulations has not been entirely effective for its intended recipients. Many parents are entirely unaware of the bill, possess little to no knowledge of it, and are generally confused on how it applies to them and their child’s education (Miller, Homeless Families' Education Networks': An Examination of Access and Mobilization, 2011) (Pavlakis, 2014). Such lapse in knowledge provided barriers to a child’s enrollment, prevents students from attending higher quality schools, or staying connected to the child’s school of origin, and hinders families overall access to resources provided under the Act. To exacerbate the issue many officials appointed under the act and other relevant school personnel have a lack of understanding of the Act as well (Pavlakis, 2014) (Anderson, Grothaus, Knight, & Lorelle, 2011).

Additionally, other policies can complicate the delivery system further. Recent policies such as the HEARTH Act and HPRP or Rapid-Rehousing, promotes and expedited the transition of homeless individuals and families into permanent housing (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013) (Pavlakis, 2014). Prior to this most areas acted under the Continuum of Care which generally followed the progression from emergency shelter to transitional housing, and/or permanent housing (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013). Despite certain benefits found in permanent housing, it characterizes a student as being less eligible for transportation, due to their permanent housing status (Pavlakis, 2014). Additionally, the permanent housings often cause families to feel isolated, as the housing isn’t generally within the same area but in “scattered sites”, often these sites are found to provide transportation challenges to other resources as well (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013, p. 243). Lastly, the McKinney Vento Act does not help accommodate homeless students with disabilities, due to the expedite for enrollment lack of records is not an issues under the Act but in the case of students’ with disabilities a lack of records or failure to transfer records by other schools, LEAs, and the homeless liaisons, can lead to an interruption of services for the child. Despite the negatives of the bill’s execution it is still argued that its overall aim of identifying and providing services has helped many homeless students. For example the 19% of districts in the nation receiving funds from the Act  identified 80% of the U.S.’ total number of homeless students’, most of them provide transportation, school supplies, clothing, and instructional support and well informed personnel inform parents and help facilitate such services (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013) (Pavlakis, 2014); Miller contends in his Critical Analysis of the Research on Homelessness  that further implementation will increase the collaboration of involved parties, and more students appear to benefit.

School

Following the policy realm is the schools involvement as a resource for the homeless student. Resources used by homeless students across most schools include tutoring programs, mentoring programs, IEPs (Individualized Education Plan), and the setting of the school itself (Pavlakis, 2014) (Anderson, Grothaus, Knight, & Lorelle, 2011) (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013). In one study detailing the parents’ and the students’ view on their resources both groups had views expressing the tutoring and mentoring programs as positive resources (Anderson, Grothaus, Knight, & Lorelle, 2011). In Pavlakis’(2014) study there was a specific program mentioned that both school personnel and parents valued as a resource to aid homeless students’, called  the Students’ and Families Programs, which connected school social workers and parents, and facilitated information for resources within the school and the community, and aided with overcoming transportation barriers. Despite this, lack of communication between the families and the school is discussed as a large problem and created barriers to resources. Parents felt the schools were insensitive to their situations, being unable to overcome transportation and meet with school personnel, and felt the schools failed to keep them informed (Pavlakis, 2014). Additionally, parents were unable to participate in aiding their child in academic success or disciplinary issues due to lack of communication from teachers and others involved (Anderson, Grothaus, Knight, & Lorelle, 2011). At the community level schools seemed to lack communication as well, failing to reach out to homeless shelters, and community based programs in the area. Social workers seemed to be the least active in communication referred to be working in silos, even among those within neighboring areas (Pavlakis, 2014). A general consensus was that the increased collaboration and involvement of schools in the community needed to be improved upon. In Considering the Geographic Dispersion of Homeless and Highly Mobile Students it discusses the schools’ role on a larger level, specifically a district in Wisconsin. The article details the importance of defined plans and the aid of the McKinney Vento Act in funding and promoting services in the district. Evidence of lack of infrastructure in certain areas, spatial properties, lack of specific plans to assess the problem, and other issues were also presented as challenges in certain areas providing aid to homeless students (Bourgeois & Miller, 2013) (Miller, A Critical Analysis of the Research on Homelessness, 2011). Such implications urge the need for more research across various locations and increased assessment of the schools programs and efforts in order to determine what factors influence school-centered barriers to resources for homeless students.

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