Quarterly Newsletter - August 2020

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From the Director...

Dear Early Childhood Development Catalysts,

It’s hard to believe that we are now several months into our new normal with COVID-19. We know this has been really difficult time, especially for families with young children – but even more so for families who are experiencing homelessness. We know many families have urgent needs and sometimes some of our most vulnerable families fall to the wayside because they're a little bit more difficult to find.

This month, we shine the spotlight on partnerships and collaborations needed to serve our most vulnerable young children and their caregivers. Families experiencing homelessness are forced to be even more mobile than they were before, many shelters are moving families out because of social distancing, and families may be afraid to seek shelter right now because of health and safety risks. With school closures, another source of stability and routine connections for families is not available. We are worried about potential increases in family violence or addiction or mental health issues and we're seeing layers and layers of disruption and trauma during a critical developmental stage for our youngest children. We know that it is challenging to access basic shelter, hygiene, food, all the things that any child and every family needs --- which makes partnerships with early childhood and other programs even more critical now than ever.

We’ve seen innovation all over the country --- from Head Start staff identifying and enrolling homeless children into the program; home visiting programs doing visits with families in shelters; school liaisons partnering to connect homeless children to early childhood programs; and other communities working to strengthen partnerships across homeless shelters, pediatric offices, mental health and substance abuse, nutrition, and other family support programs. We’re encouraging federal partners to come together to support our most vulnerable families and we encourage the early childhood field to take an inventory of existing partnerships and ask the question, "How am I using this partner to reach families experiencing homelessness?” I know that all of us working together can really make a difference for the 1.4 million children and their families experiencing homelessness. We are excited to share some of tools and resources that federal agencies and community partners have developed to help all of us reach out and do something today.

- Dr. Deborah Bergeron

Director of the Office of Early Childhood Development and Office of Head Start

"ECD’s mission is to act as a catalyst to create collective impact and support early learning and care of our nation's children and their families."



Follow us on: Twitter handle: @ecdgov

Early Childhood Development and Families Experiencing Homelessness

Safe and stable housing is a basic necessity for everyone, but especially for young children. The research indicates that homelessness and housing instability impact children's health, education, and future economic stability.

Resources are available to help flatten and hopefully reverse this trend. They include:

Home At Head Start Campaign

Did you know?

Children who experience homelessness are automatically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Here are links to the Home at Head Start Campaign, online training tools and resources for programs:

Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness

Caring for the Health and Wellness of Children Experiencing Homelessness

Coming Soon: Webinar on Innovative Partnerships Between Early Head Start and FYSB Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Young Families Experiencing Homelessness

Wednesday, Sept 9, 2020
3-4 p.m. ET

Registration will be available soon at

Building strong working relationships with community partners is key to supporting children and families experiencing homelessness. Early Head Start programs can prioritize enrollment for pregnant and parenting young families by building partnerships with local Maternity Group Homes (MGH) who serve these young parents and their children. For EHS programs with a local MGH in the area, these partnerships increase critical supports to young families experiencing homelessness.

In this webinar, learn about the Maternity Group Home program, funded by ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), and how one Maternity Group Home program and Early Head Start program are working together to serve the needs of pregnant and parenting youth.

Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters

The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters was originally developed by ACF and it was recently updated by Child Care Services Association with guidance from a national advisory group in 2020. This tool provides shelters the resources and information necessary to support the fragile young children in their care. With the tool’s abundant resources and guidance on best practices, shelters can assess how their programs can best meet the needs of vulnerable young children and their families. The tool also encourages shelters to develop relationships with local resources like early intervention and home visiting programs, child care and WIC, for help implementing new practices and to promote cross-program referrals. Finally, the tool guides shelters through developing action plans to promote positive experiences for children and families.

State Resources - Families Experiencing Homelessness Resources

The Office of Child Care's National Center Early Childhood Training and Technical Assistance Center has developed additional resources for states here:

Sesame Street In Communities

Losing one’s home brings enormous challenges, yet families can be incredibly strong and determined to create a better future. Every family can build a sense of hope and learn ways to cope…and remember that no one is alone. For more tools and resources like the video below for professionals and programs, visit:
Home is...

Federal Interagency Working Group on Ending Homelessness Among Families with Children Focuses on Early Childhood

The USICH Interagency Working Group on Ending Homelessness among Families with Children held its quarterly meeting in June 2020. The meeting focused on the intersection of issues related to early childhood development and homelessness, with presentations from two family homelessness service providers: Larry Seamans, President of FamilyAid Boston, and Christine Achre, CEO of Primo Center in Chicago.

Both presenters provided an overview of their respective programs and how they have adapted service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to address the needs of families with young children. FamilyAid also talked about a partnership with Boston Public Schools for data-sharing and prevention and diversion, emphasizing a 2-gen approach. The Primo Center also described a new initiative targeting 500 families as part of a collaborative effort with child welfare and social services partners.

The presenters concluded with a series of recommendations for federal agencies to consider, including committing to create a culture of trauma-informed care across the homelessness services system and continuing to support and increase access to high-quality home visitation and early childhood services for all children experiencing homelessness.


Other Resources

Fighting the Big Virus Childrens' Book by NCTSN Specific to COVID-19

National Child Traumatic Stress Network, (NCTSN) developed a children’s book to help young children and families talk about their experiences and feelings related to COVID-19 and the need to shelter in place. In the story, the coronavirus has spread to Littletown causing changes in everyone's lives. The story opens doors to conversations about COVID-19, ways that families and communities are working together to keep safe from the virus, family and community strengths, common challenges and reactions in children and adults, ways that families support children and each other, and our intense gratitude for frontline workers. A caregiver guide is available in the back of the book that provides ways parents can use the story with their children. A companion story, Fighting the Big Virus: Trinka's and Sam's Questions, for how to answer children's questions about the virus is also available.

Free Downloadable Book -

Other COVID-19 resources:

Resources from the Field

Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, promotes the importance of early brain and language development and supports caregivers with free tools to talk, read, and sing with young children from birth. Too Small to Fail aims to meet families where they are and support early childhood development through the transformation of everyday spaces and the distribution of early literacy resources. Too Small to Fail has also worked with partners to transform laundromats, playgrounds, pediatrician’s offices, and other locations of essential services into literacy-rich environments that promote playful learning through parent-child interactions. To support families during COVID-19, Too Small to Fail created a bilingual (English/Spanish) Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing Indoor Activities Kit to provide fun, simple ideas on ways to keep children engaged and learning while indoors. Too Small to Fail has developed additional resources on topics such as early literacy, early math, social-emotional development, and STEM learning available for caregivers and early childhood care providers to support learning and healthy development. Please feel free to access these free materials—including posters, family handouts, social media content, shareable videos, and more—to support you in your efforts to engage families during this time.


Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing

Talking Is Teaching Resources

Free Resources from Too Small to Fail Toolkit


Stay Tuned:

SchoolHouse Connection and the National Head Start Association are developing a web-based application to streamline and expedite referrals of children experiencing homelessness from local educational agencies to Head Start programs. Contact Barbara Duffield at SHC for more information

ECD Resources

Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five - New Synthesis Report

In FY2020, 6 additional States/Territories received a PDG B-5 Initial Grant Award and 23 states were awarded 3-year PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. ECD pertnered with OCC to develop a synthesis report of the funded applications from FY2020 is available here: Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Synthesis Report.

More information about PDG B-5 is available from the Office of Child Care.

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