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Educating Homeless Youth How to Live Healthy and Independent Lives

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Families with children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. In the United States today, an estimated 1.35 million children are likely to experience homelessness over the course of a year (The Institute for Children and Poverty, 2003). These numbers represents two percent of all children in the United States, and ten percent of all poor children in the United States. When we think of this population, we most often envision children living in shelters in large cities, but even if you teach in a suburban or rural community, you may have children that may experience homelessness in your schools. I feel that students living in doubled-up accommodations, campgrounds, motels, and in shelters may be considered homeless as well.

Educating children and youth today involves helping them to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes in specific areas of need. In order for a program to be effective, the education of children and youth today should be planned. Society needs to understand the needs of our children and youth today, and the situation before you can embark on any teaching. Homelessness has a devastating impact on homeless children and youth's educational opportunities. Homeless children and youth who are able to enroll in school still face barriers to regular attendance, while 87% of homeless children are enrolled in school and only 77% attend school regularly (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Every time a child has to change schools his or her education is disrupted. According to some estimates, 3-6 months of education are lost with every move. In a recent study of homeless children in New York City, 23% of homeless children repeated a grade and 13% were placed in special education classes (Institute for Children, 2003). Homeless children are thus at-risk for falling behind in school due to their mobility. Without an opportunity to receive an education, homeless children and youth are much less likely to acquire the skill they need to escape poverty as adults.

There are kids that have many reasons for leaving home. Some studies suggest that as many as 90 percent of the youth who leave home do so because of child abuse. They have been physically, sexually, or emotionally hurt and taken advantage of. Children who are abused are sometimes afraid to tell anyone they know. Some fear that they will get their abuser in trouble, or will be hurt even more, some are embarrassed; some may have even been told they deserve the abuse. Sometimes leaving home seems like the only answer. I believe all children should have choices when it comes to their personal safety. We know first hand that once on the streets, young people are at even higher risk of being physically and/or sexually victimized, of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to reduce emotional pain. Some even attempt suicide and often engage in act of "survival"



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