invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Incredible Efforts in the Trenches

Fire departments can be all-volunteer or funded by municipalities. Every community has some form of fire protection. Every public school district has homeless liaisons. Dedicated fire-fighters and McKinney-Vento homeless education liaisons have similarities--both do amazing work despite incredible odds. This blog offers both a tribute and opportunity for these liaisons.

One bonus of my travels is that I often get to spend quality time hanging out with McK-V liaisons.

They are often the unsung s-heroes and heroes of a school community--going to places many wouldn't even know exist; finding, assisting and keeping track of invisible kids who otherwise would not get into school; fighting ravages of poverty and homelessness threatening to swamp families/youth; butting heads with clueless educators or administrators; wrestling with budget issues and bad attitudes; providing life-sustaining assistance and moral support to their students; training district personnel in McK-V policies; and always going above and beyond to make sure kids have the best chance to succeed in school and life. (This list is by NO MEANS inclusive....)

Another perk of my HEAR US job is to get to talk to kids who have experienced homelessness. If you haven't seen "My Own Four Walls," the first documentary I filmed featuring all kids talking about their experiences of homelessness and education
, it's worth getting (I guarantee it!). One thing all these spokespersons had in common--they loved their homeless liaisons!

Sadly, another common trait is that McK-V programs and staff are often grossly
unappreciated and under-supported. They're the ones locating the families after the fire, eviction, or domestic violence, trying to figure out how to help the families or teens patch things together again, at least enough to preserve the educational haven for the students.
We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.
Commonly caused by lack of knowledge or sensitivity to homeless students, I've seen McK-V disregard at the district level show up as:
  • Program focus gets shifted (weakened), too often without discussion, by administrators who may be trying to do the right thing....or not.
  • Personnel gets shifted to non-McK-V programs if they are perceived as "too effective" or troublesome to non-compliant administrators.
  • Little or no time gets made in professional development schedules to inform district personnel about McK-V issues.
  • Funding gets, um, redirected by administrators, knowing that McK-V staff can't cause a stink.
  • Superintendents name themselves as liaisons, or appoint someone who either has no time or desire to perform the task.
  • Violations of McK-V are overlooked by district or state bureaucrats, especially if the offender is a "respected" administrator.
It's hard to find a safe place to voice frustrations of McK-V work. But this blog allows anonymous comments and I'd be interested to hear what's going on out in McK-V land across the country. Good or bad. If a district or administrator has done exemplary, let's give voice to that too!

I'll start...what's with apparent blatant disregard of McK-V that seems to be overlooked, if not sanctioned, by McK-V authorities? If families broke the law like some districts do they'd be behind bars.

Seems to me that if we have a law it should be followed. What will it take to ensure the protection of educational rights of homeless kids? Maybe I'm opening a can of worms, but it's a discussion that needs to happen with hope for improvement on the local, state and federal level. Let's hear from others....

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