NAEHCY Early Childhood

Homelessness jeopardizes the health, early development, and educational well-being of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to enrolling and participating in early childhood care and education. This is especially troubling in light of the fact that over 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters are under the age of five, and therefore at an age where early childhood education can have a significant positive impact on their development and future academic achievement.

This page provides resources relevant to early childhood education and young homeless children, including general information, Head Start, child care, and public preschool programs.

Now Available: The Child Care Development Fund and Children Experiencing Homelessness – preparation for submission of FY2022-FY2024 CCDF Program Plans are beginning. A resource guide for consideration.

Now Available: Early Childhood Homelessness State Profiles – 2018, as prepared by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service.

Reserving Slots in Head Start for Children Experiencing Homelessness

The new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) released in November 2016 include a provision [§1302.15(c)] allowing Head Start and Early Head Start programs to reserve one or more enrollment slots (up to 3% of the funded enrollment) for pregnant women and children experiencing homelessness in their service areas for a period of 30 days when a vacancy occurs. This provision complements the afore-mentioned regulations of the Head Start Act and can serve as one part of a program’s broader strategy for serving children and families experiencing homelessness. This Standard does not simply refer to vacancies at the beginning of the program year, but also applies to vacancies that might occur during the year because of children leaving or “dropping” from the program.
This document is designed to support Early Head Start and Head Start programs in strategically leveraging the new provision allowing programs to reserve slots for children and families experiencing homelessness. Read on for a description of how programs can lay the foundation needed to ensure families can benefit from this new provision; a step-by-step guide for implementing the new provision; and an illustrative example of what reserving slots may look like in practice.

Understanding the Early Childhood Landscape of Services and Supports for Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

The early childhood field encompasses a wide variety of service types and settings, as well as funding streams and regulatory systems. For those in the field, it can seem like a maze, or even a heavy fog. Fortunately, with a few key questions and sources of information, one can map out the local early childhood landscape. The “Early Care and Education Infrastructure in My Community” grid provides a list of the key programs supported by public funds and legislation, and provides space to record what the program is called locally with the name and contact information for accessing the program and services. The accompanying “Early Education and Care Resource List” provides an annotated list of these same programs and a link to the programs’ websites with state contacts who can help identify and access local programs. Special thanks to Grace Whitney, Connecticut’s Director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office, for creating these tools!

Fact Sheet: Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

This NAEHCY fact sheet provides key facts and statistics related to young children experiencing homelessness, including information on barriers to access to shelter and early childhood education programs, and risk factors associated with experiences of homelessness during a child’s early years. September 2016.

Early Childhood Homelessness: A 50 State Profile

Published by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Early Childhood Development (ODAS-ECD) at the Administration for Children and Families, this report summarizes available federal program data on young children experiencing homelessness. January 2016.

Access to Early Childhood Programs for Young Children Experiencing Homelessness: A Survey Report

This report shares findings from a national survey focused on developing an understanding of the barriers and facilitators of access to early childhood services among young children and families experiencing homelessness. February 2015.

Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States: A Congressional Briefing

At this Congressional briefing, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development provided an overview of early childhood homelessness and reviewed steps that the Administration for Children and Families has taken to remove barriers to early childhood programs. Local and State panelists described innovations in increasing homeless children’s access to quality early childhood programs, as well as the remaining challenges they face. March 2016.


Aligning Early Childhood Programs to Serve Children Experiencing Homelessness. This document provides an overview of federal preschool, Head Start, and child care policies for children experiencing homelessness. Organized by topic area, a chart compares effective dates; funding levels; definitions; eligibility; eligibility determinations; outreach and identification; enrollment; continuity/stability; transportation; collaborations; referrals; and family engagement. This publication was written in collaboration with the Office of Early Childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. October 2016.


The Most Frequently Asked Questions on the Education Rights of Children in Homeless Situations: Preschool and Other Early Childhood Programs

This document provides answers to the most frequently asked questions on preschool and early childhood programs. It is an excerpt from “The Most Frequently Asked Questions on the Education Rights of Children in Homeless Situations.” September 2016.

Preschool and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

This document summarizes the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act related to preschool. September 2016.


Summary of Final Head Start Regulations Related to Homelessness

On September 6, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced final regulations to update the Head Start Performance Standards. The final rule contains new policies on the prioritization of homeless children, as well as other procedures to facilitate the identification, enrollment, and stability of homeless children in Head Start. This document summarizes regulations related to homelessness.


Final Child Care and Development Fund Regulations Specific to Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness

This short document summarizes the final Child Care and Development Fund regulations that are specific to homelessness, including regulations on the definition of homelessness for CCDF, enrollment, prioritization, and service coordination. Updated September 2016.

Child Care Development Fund Reauthorization

Recent important changes to the CCDBG Act focused on reforming child care in this country to better support the success of both parents and children.

In September of 2016, OCC published new rules to provide clarity to states on how to implement this law and administer the program in a way that best meets the needs of children, child care providers, and families. It has been over 18 years since HHS last issued comprehensive child care regulations and during that time, we have learned more about the impact high-quality child care can have on young children’s development and learning.