Homeless Children and the Educational System
Many people still think of homeless transients as alcoholics and/or mentally disabled. The truth is, the current homeless population consists of runaway adolescents, single adult males or females, battered women and over one million homeless families with children – typically headed by a female parent.
To be homeless means that one’s primary residence is a public or private shelter, emergency housing, hotel, motel, living with family or friends or any public space – like parks, automobiles, aqueducts or abandoned buildings (Pawlas, 1996).
Statement of the Problem
With the number of homeless students on the rise, schools encounter new educational challenges that include: establishing and maintaining enrollment procedures that would not discourage school attendance; lack of teacher-training/awareness in the special needs of homeless children; the non-existence of a school transfer system for homeless children that would be least destructive to a child's education, while all the time not overlooking the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, security and medical care that homeless families with children require immediately.
Homelessness is now a major problem in the United States, with the growing population being homeless families or single mothers and their children. Due to the rapid growth and obvious presence (shelters, visibility) of homeless families in the United States – Are the legally mandated educational rights of homeless children being fulfilled? If so, how? If not, why not?
Review of Literature
The plight of homeless families with children was initially addressed in 1987. Congress passed the first comprehensive law to provide emergency long-term assistance for homeless persons, in particular children and youth (Pawlas, 1994). Under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the fifty states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia received funding to investigate the number and the needs of homeless children, to identify obstacles that would prevent them from receiving an education and to develop a plan to overcome these problems (Pawlas, 1996). The McKinney Act also provides emergency food assistance, adult literacy instruction, job training, health services and other programs. Under this act, homeless children are ensured access to the same, free appropriate public education other children in the state receive.
Subsequently, in 1990 and 1994, amendments were incorporated into the earlier Act of 1987 to ensure equal access to schools for homeless children. States were told to remove barriers in enrollment, attendance, or success in schools-proof of immunization, guardianship and birth certificate requirements (Eddowes, 1994). These provisions made it clear that everything possible should be done to support the educational pursuits of homeless children and youth.
Through the 1990 and 1994...