Serving Young Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness

Did You Know?

  1. Over one million children under six experience homelessness nationwide.
  2. Early childhood is the stage of life correlated with the highest risk of residing in a homeless shelter.
  3. Homelessness during pregnancy and the first five years is linked to increased risks for developmental delays, health and social-emotional problems into the school-age years.
  4. High quality early care and education buffers children and families from the challenges and risks of homelessness, yet children in homeless situations are less likely to participate in stable and nurturing early childhood programs, compared to their peers.
  5. Barriers that may keep families and children experiencing homelessness from participating in early childhood and school-age care and education programs include:
    • limited access to transportation
    • frequent moves
    • lack of documentation for enrollment (birth certificates, medical documentation, etc.)
    • lack of child care spaces
    • lack of awareness among the early care and education field about the prevalence of homelessness among families with young children.

Child Care Professionals Are In a Unique Position to Help

Early childhood and school-age care and education professionals are a critical and valuable resource in the lives of young children and their families; especially during moments of hardships.

  • Trusting relationships between families experiencing homelessness and early childhood and school-age care and education professionals supports young children’s learning and development
  • Overwhelmed parents and caregivers can more easily focus on meeting their goals toward stable housing, and employment/training if they know their child is safe and receiving quality care

Local and National Resources

The PDF below has sharable information on local and national resources that help families struggling with homelessness. Click the image below to view the PDF.

What Can You Do?

  • Build a resource list of local and national organizations that work to support families and children experiencing homelessness. Click on each of the last three resources in the PDF above under  “Homelessness Resources” for links to state and local resources you may use in your direct service with families.
  • Share identified resources with families and follow-up over time.
  • Identify and network with local agencies such as homeless shelters and transitional housing programs for families.
  • Join a homeless coalition in your state to collaborate with community organizations that support families experiencing homelessness. Advocate for the needs of young children to service providers that work with these families.
  • Help families access child care subsidies, child care referrals and additional supports, such as TANF, WIC and Medicaid through their local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency. Find the local Child Care Resource & Referral agency in your area by contacting Child Care Aware® toll-free at 1.800.424.2246. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.


Become familiar with McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act’s definition for homelessness.

Download PDF

Become informed on federal rules supporting children/families dealing with homelessness.

Download PDF

Get characteristics of early childhood homelessness in your state & how it impacts parents/children.

Download PDF

Get tips on how YOU can best serve children and families experiencing homelessness.

Download PDF


Have Additional Questions?

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