Homeless Children: Update on Research, Policy, Programs, and Opportunities. IV-C. Pre-K and preschool programs

05/15/2010

For younger children, typically under age 5, efforts are geared toward increasing access to child care or education programs such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Head Start Program. According to ED (2006), there is an underrepresentation of homeless preschoolers in early education programs. Under McKinney-Vento, reauthorized as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, homeless children are entitled to a free, appropriate public education, including preschool education. The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 made homeless children categorically eligible to participate in Head Start. States are required to ensure that homeless children have equal access to the same public preschool programs administered by state agencies and attended by housed children in the state. Also every LEA must designate a liaison for preschool students who are homeless. LEA liaisons must ensure that homeless children are identified and immediately enrolled in preschool. Parents and guardians are to be informed about education rights, including transportation, and receive educational services to which they are entitled. This includes Even Start and preschool programs. State coordinators for the education of homeless children and youth must coordinate with social services agencies, child development and preschool program personnel, and other agencies to provide comprehensive services to preschoolers.

Homeless preschoolers are categorically eligible for Head Start and other preschool programs. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires homeless children to have access to preschool programs “comparable” to the programs attended by other children. Every state runs its prekindergarten programs differently.  Head Start programs are required to identify and prioritize homeless children. However, many Head Start programs operate with waiting lists.

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