Birth-to-Three Early Intervention services throughout Pennsylvania work together to support children and families experiencing homelessness.
By Sydney Kerelo
In 2022, the City of Philadelphia announced it had approximately 4,489 homeless individuals and families. Most of that population are families with children in the Birth-to-Three age range.
That’s not all; according to Red Nose Day, nearly 31 million children worldwide are left unhoused. In the United States specifically, there are 12 states with more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness, including Pennsylvania.
“It’s an established condition, homelessness,” says Edie Harrison, KenCrest’s Director of Program Services for Birth-to-Five, Home, and Community Based Early Intervention. “For families and children, especially Birth-to-Three, that’s a huge upheaval. They leave behind their familiar places, people, and routines, which can lead to trauma.”
Harrison explains that experiencing homelessness causes trauma in children’s lives, and she’s seen many develop behavioral issues because of homelessness. According to her, those children can have undiagnosed developmental delays, which may be left untreated because of their family’s situation.
One of the ways that Philadelphia is combating child homelessness is through Child Find, which connects pockets of children not getting the appropriate help they need—in this instance, Early Intervention—with the right services.
“Birth-to-Three Early Intervention is a coaching model that works within a family’s routines to help children with developmental delays grow to their fullest potential,” says Harrison. “Interventionists enter the home (or wherever the family is currently residing) and work within the family’s routine to ensure that child is getting the best support they can. If that child is living in a shelter, the interventionists go into that shelter to assist, and when they find permanent housing, they can help with that transition too.”
KenCrest’s program works within Child Find to assist in connecting homeless children with the appropriate services. Though KenCrest’s Early Intervention program is active within the Southeastern PA counties, the Agency doesn’t promote itself when working with Child Find.
“We do not advertise as KenCrest while doing this work, it is done on behalf of the Philadelphia Infant Toddler Early Intervention program,” says Harrison. “Once children have been evaluated and are ready to begin services, KenCrest is one of the providers they can select.”
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The Child Find program helps organize tables at various Supportive housing sites throughout Philadelphia, offering books, little ducks, and teddy bears to give to families as they walk by. Having various organizations at these sites encourages families to get a referral and receive informative materials and resources about Early Intervention. Each family that stops by is immediately qualified for a referral due to experiencing homelessness.
But, while these resources are available, many don’t move forward with their referral.
“There was one mother, who was hesitant to make a referral,” says Harrison. “She has trauma of her own and a bit of distrust in organizations, so she was saying no, she wasn’t interested. Another mother was already involved with Early Intervention and was walking by. She stopped and spoke about her experiences with the program and ended up talking her into making a referral.”
It was an extraordinary moment for Harrison that validated her feelings about the need for children to receive Early Intervention services in Philadelphia.
“The goal is for Philadelphia County to see every child Birth-to-Three in supportive housing referred to Early Intervention services,” said Harrison. “We hope to achieve that so we can continue helping children in need.”
Are you interested in learning more about KenCrest’s Early Intervention programs?