Homelessness has a grave impact on children. Statistics show children who experience homelessness are more likely to be placed in special education programs, repeat a grade, and become depressed, anxious, or suicidal. Nearly half of these children drop out of school at least once. That’s why Family Promise has partnered with multiple child-focused organizations to ensure children in our program avoid such challenges and obstacles.
Fighting Homelessness Can Be Child’s Play
To promote children’s cognitive, physical, emotional, creative, and social development, Family Promise is working with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that strives to give all children access to the balance of active play they need to thrive.
KaBOOM! helps communities build playgrounds that increase motor skill development, reduce stress, and encourage problem-solving. Their innovative playsets, like Rigamajig®, a portable building kit used by Family Promise of Hall County (GA), are designed to inspire creativity and teamwork and are available to Affiliates at a discount.
Danielle Latlippe, daycare center coordinator at the Hall County Affiliate, notes the playset is easy to manage and appeals to a wide range of ages.
“It comes in its own storage carts, and the kids get so excited when we pull the carts out,” she says. “We’ve had kids from 18 months to 10 years old playing together. It keeps their attention for hours and lets them be creative. They love it!”
In addition to providing children with opportunities for healthy recreation, the partnership offers best practices for integrating play into the Family Promise program, co-develops grant plans, and identifies grant opportunities to assist Affiliates in acquiring playsets. It also engages volunteers, who are active in the planning and development process.
A Housing Crisis on Sesame Street
Play is a vital component of childhood, but when it comes to working with children facing a housing crisis, practitioners don’t always know how to best support them. With Family Promise’s expertise, Sesame Street in Communities (the philanthropic arm of Sesame Street that supports service providers who work with children) has launched a collection of bilingual online resources that build awareness and reduce the stigma around family homelessness. Videos, a children’s storybook, articles, and exercises provide tools and tips for providers who may be unfamiliar with the particular needs of families facing homelessness. And for the very first time, the Sesame Street television show features a Muppet who is homeless. Family Promise Affiliates are incorporating these new materials into their case management and sharing them with fellow agencies.
As a dedicated partner, Sesame Street in Communities also attended Family Promise’s national conference in 2019, conducting a media workshop, presenting an inspirational talk, and distributing copies of their children’s book about homelessness.
“Helping People at All Times”
Children battling poverty and homelessness often lack essentials like food, shelter, proper medical care, and opportunities to play, but they also have limited outlets to learn, explore, and grow. To address this gap, Family Promise has taken to heart part of the Girl Scout Promise that asserts, “I will try to help people at all times.”
In 2018, two New Jersey Affiliates formed Girl Scout troops for girls experiencing homelessness. The scouts wear uniforms, earn badges, and sell cookies just like any other troop, offering members valuable friendships, leadership opportunities, and new experiences they might otherwise never know. Only a handful of such troops exist across the country, but the two New Jersey troops have proved so successful that Family Promise is partnering with Girl Scouts of the USA to develop troops with other Affiliates.
Community Programs Manager for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey Nicole Warren, who was involved in the formation of the Family Promise troops, knows programs like this can significantly impact a girl’s development.
“Girl Scouts was a new concept to these girls,” she says. “They didn’t really know anything about it before. Now they look forward to every meeting!”
Child experts say that when we make play the foundation of learning, we educate the whole child. Serving more than 8,000 children battling homelessness each year – almost fifty percent under the age of five – means Family Promise can change the future for thousands of families by providing a well-rounded solution to a temporary crisis…including opportunities for recreation and growth that are critical to a child’s development.