A Child’s Place (ACP) works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education. ACP began in 1989 when a group of women were walking through the cemetery in downtown Charlotte and noticed a group of kids playing. When asked why the kids were not in school the children explained that they were not allowed to enroll in school without a permanent address. The group of women began offering school for this group of 27 children in a one room schoolhouse provided by First Presbyterian Church with a teacher from CMS. In 1989, the McKinney-Vento Act was passed protecting the educational rights of homeless children ensuring they are provided the necessities they need to regularly attend school. Since that first class of 27 ACP client children we have grown to help 2,656 homeless children during the 2012-13 school year.
Homeless children are living in unstable living conditions that include shelters, motels, doubled-up with others and 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%.
Sources: National Center on Family Homelessness
ACP works to remove these barriers for our client children to attain their education and make school the most stable part of their lives. We provide educational and emotional support services as well as medical referrals to keep our client children healthy and in the classroom.
Most of our client families are the working poor. For them, homelessness is not a way of life; it’s a time in their lives. By minimizing the impact of this difficult time on the children and their academic growth, ACP contributes to their likelihood of breaking the cycle of poverty.
Stability and education are key solutions to solve the homeless problem here in Charlotte. The relationship between education and income is one of the best-documented in economics: 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.
Source: A Child’s Place Client data, 2010-2011; Levin, H., Belfield, C., Muennig, P. and Rouse, C. (2007), The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of American’s Children.New York, NY:Columbia University.
We can pay now or pay later. It costs ACP $985 per year to serve a homeless child. Compare that to $62,000 for that same child to be in our juvenile justice system or $39,000 to be incarcerated as an adult or for the costs of substance abuse treatment or government assistance later. Helping these children now not only fulfills their hopes and dreams; it creates better citizens and employees for our community.
In the 2011-12 school year, 97% of A Child’s Place students were promoted to the next grade (compare to 64% nationally) and 81% read on grade level (compare to 48% nationally and 68% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students).
Source: A Child’s Place client data, 2011-2012; National Center on Family Homelessness
FY 2014-16 Strategic Plan
There are 4,922 students identified as homeless in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. A Child’s Place is not able to keep pace with the increasing number of homeless children in our community.
That’s why A Child’s Place has embarked on a 3-year Strategic Plan to reach and help every homeless child in Mecklenburg County including those under age five while simultaneously participating in community initiatives to reduce the number of homeless children.
Strategic staff additions and placement will make the difference. Homeless students attend virtually every Charlotte-Mecklenburg School. That is 159 schools scattered over 526 square miles. Currently, three Flex and four School-Based social work teams are covering as many of the schools and students as they can … but still leaves many homeless students without help. Gradually adding five Flex and three School-Based teams would enable every Mecklenburg County homeless child to receive assistance from A Child’s Place. Appropriate management and administrative support would also be incrementally added.
Having 4,770 homeless children in our city is nothing to be proud of. We can sit by and say “What a shame” or we can roll up our sleeves and get involved. It will be difficult, frustrating and challenging – much like the lives our children experience now. But what we can be proud of is when we look back and see what we as a community have accomplished.
Our children deserve this. Our community deserves this. Won’t you join us?
A Child’s Place is 100% privately funded. We receive no federal, state or local tax dollars. We do not charge our clients fees. There is no endowment or business on the side to generate revenue. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, A Child’s Place received donations from the following sources: Foundations, 29%; Individuals, 28%; United Way designations, 11%; Businesses, 14%; Faith and civic organizations, 18%;