The Office of Child Development and the Education Law Center
presented their findings and recommendations regarding young children and their
families who are homeless to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services
(DHS) in response to a request for concept papers to improve the delivery of
human services in Allegheny County.
DHS acted on those recommendations by announcing 3 initiatives
to improve services to young homeless children and their families. Even though
the PA Department of Welfare has been dramatically reducing funding for human
services, DHS has re-allocated funds to
create and improve their services to these young children and their parents by:
- Instituting an innovative model of "case management"
known as Conferencing and Teaming for families entering the homeless shelters. DHS has designed this model to “promote the
health, well-being and self-reliance of those served.”
- Initiating a comprehensive assessment of Allegheny
County’s homeless system.
- Partnering with The Heinz Endowments to initiate
and evaluate an innovative program to improve the outcomes for young children
by creating family friendly spaces in two homeless shelters where young
children and their mothers can spend “quality time,” supported by staff from Bright
Horizons and The Alliance for Infants and Toddlers. The Office of Child
Development and the Education Law Center have been the intermediaries in
creating this partnership. The program
will be evaluated by DHS and the Office to measure parent and provider satisfaction
There are 25 non-profit providers of housing and support
services to families who are homeless in Allegheny County. There are a
surprising number of families who are homeless locally and nationally, and
infants, toddlers and preschoolers constitute almost half of the children who
find themselves in programs for the homeless. Last year, approximately 850
children under the age of six were housed in Allegheny County’s programs.
In January of 2012, the Office of Child Development and the
Education Law Center began their partnership to support local young children
and their parents who are homeless, and to address the policy and practice
issues of importance to the healthy development of young children.
In November of 2012, The Office of Child Development and
Education Law Center shared their findings and recommendations with The Heinz
Endowments and Department of Human Services. Those recommendations were
designed to address the toxic stress that young homeless children experience at
a time in their lives when chronic stress can disrupt the architecture of their
This partnership was funded by The Heinz Endowments, a
leader in enhancing the healthy development of young children and their