Research is clear that children’s earliest experiences build a strong or weak foundation for all future learning and health. The impact of homelessness on young children’s development can be particularly devastating, resulting in changes in brain architecture that can interfere with social-emotional development, self-regulation and cognition. High quality early education settings can serve as a protective factor for homeless children, but many do not have access to such programs.
A 50-state report on homelessness just released by the federal Administration for Children and Families found that 1 in 28 North Carolina children under age six experienced homelessness in 2015. That’s more than 26,000 young children – enough to fill the Durham Bulls’ stadium two and a half times. Only five percent of those young children were served by federally-funded Head Start/Early Head Start or McKinney-Vento-funded early childhood education programs, compared to eight percent served in the United States as a whole.
The report, Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States: 50-State Profile, also found that many more families with young children in NC are at risk of becoming homeless. NC is among the 10 states with the highest percentages of low-income working families. High quality early care and education helps children learn and parents work to support their families.