By Julie Van Domelen, EFAA Executive Director
Many families with young children in our community struggle to make ends meet. For families experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness, the effects on their children can be devastating. The toxic stress and dislocation of this experience often lead to lost school days, health and behavioral problems, and longer-term issues that continue the cycle of poverty.
To minimize the negative effects housing insecurity and homelessness have on children, and end the cycle of poverty, EFAA launched a more intensive Children’s Program focused on the kids living in EFAA temporary housing. While the housing itself provides a more stable and protective environment, EFAA’s dedicated children’s case manager now assesses the kids’ needs in each family entering EFAA housing. The goal is that all children in EFAA housing will be valued, healthy and thriving. Young children will arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn and school-aged children will be successful. Children will access medical and dental services. The program also supports parents with parenting resources, access to child care, and deeper connections with their children’s schools and other community resources.
Since this expanded program was launched a year ago, 314 children lived in EFAA’s family housing. We are already seeing big positive changes from the more intensive services. Some key highlights of results include:
• More education resources on site, including 89 percent of children 0-3 years old in EFAA housing receiving early education materials.
• Much better coverage of medical and dental services, with almost all kids having an identified primary care physician, all those identified as needing eyeglasses receiving either a referral or eyeglasses, and over 80 percent having a dental and/or medical checkup in the past year.
• 75 percent of children ages 5-13 years old participated in on-site after school activities during their stay in EFAA housing.
• Over the summer, all children in EFAA family housing were facilitated access to our partner agency YMCA’s summer camps.
• Almost all parents received referrals to child care and parenting resources. Half of all families assessed wanted a new way to connect to school; 96 percent of those were assisted in making that connection.
Thank you to the funders who stepped in to help us launch this scaled-up programming for children, including several generous individuals, the Comis Foundation, the Hasbro Children’s Fund, and the Temple Buell Foundation. The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County has provided valuable technical advice to make sure our approaches reflect best practice and are integrated into to the broader web of services available to young children. Zonta has donated books so that families can move into apartments equipped with resources to promote literacy.
All children in our community deserve stability and the opportunity to thrive. We are pleased to share with you EFAA’s progress in making that a reality.