The Mission of A Child’s Place
A Child’s Place (ACP) works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education.
How A Child’s Place Began
ACP began in 1989 when a group of women were walking through Settlers Cemetery in Uptown Charlotte and noticed children playing there during school hours. When asked why they were not in school, the children explained that they were not allowed to enroll in school without a permanent address. The women began a school for 27 homeless children in a room provided by First Presbyterian Church with a teacher from CMS and called it A Child’s Place. Soon after these beginnings, Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Act protecting the educational rights of homeless children. With McKinney-Vento, ACP’s mission shifted to supporting homeless children enrolled in public school. Since 1989, the agency has substantially expanded its service capacity. During the 2013-2014 school year, ACP helped 2,843 homeless children.
Removing Barriers to Childhood Education Created by Homelessness
Homeless children live in unstable conditions that include shelters, pay-by-the-week motels, doubled-up or tripled-up with others and in cars. Because of the instability they experience, these children are:
- Hungry twice as often as other children;
- Sick four times more often;
- Two to three grade levels behind and twice as likely to repeat a grade; and
- Experience emotional and behavioral problems three times more than their housed peers
- The national graduation rate for homeless children is below 25%.
(Source: National Center on Family Homelessness)
ACP works to remove these barriers. Our purpose is to enable client homeless children to have the same educational opportunities and advantages as other children.
Most of our client families are working poor, and virtually all of them live well below the poverty line. For them, homelessness is not a way of life, but a time in their lives. By minimizing the impact of this difficult time on the academic progress of children, ACP contributes to the likelihood that they will be promoted each year, graduate from high school and ultimately break the cycle of poverty.
Shall We Pay Now or Pay Later?
Stability and education are the keys to solving the homeless problem here in Charlotte. The relationship between education and income well-documented. Those with more education make more money. For every year a child progresses through school, the likelihood of being poor and homeless as an adult decreases.
We can pay now or pay later. It currently costs ACP $817 per year to serve a client homeless child. Compare that to the more than $60,000 per year it costs us for a child to be in our juvenile justice system or the nearly $40,000 per year it costs taxpayers to incarcerate or provide substance abuse treatment for an adult. or government. Helping homeless children now not only fulfills their hopes and dreams; it creates better citizens and employees for our community.
Academic Performance of ACP Client Children
Student performance data reported at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year revealed that 99% of our client students were promoted to the next grade (compare to 64% nationally), 92 percent passed grade level reading standards and 92 percent passed grade-level math performance standards.
How Many Homeless Children Are There?
At the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported a system-wide enrollment of 4,131 identified homeless students. That number is almost certainly too low, because it doesn’t include non-school-age children, nor does it account for students who are very good at keeping their homelessness from teachers and school administrators.
How A Child’s Place is Funded
A Child’s Place has been determined by the IRS to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is 100 percent privately funded. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, which corresponds to the 2012-2013 school year, A Child’s Place received $2.2 million in charitable contributions from the following sources: individuals (32 percent), foundations (21 percent), corporations (19 percent), faith and civic organizations (15 percent) and United Way (13 percent). In addition, A Child’s Place depends on in-kind contributions of school supplies, school uniforms and other clothing, personal toiletry items and food for snacks throughout the year.