According to data released by the US Department of Education, a record 1, 258,182 children enrolled in the public school system during the 2012-2013 school year were homeless; this figure is up nearly 8 percent from the previous year’s levels. Kids Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks South Carolina 26th nationally for child homelessness, with more than 18,000 children in the state living in an unstable home.

Homeless children face obstacles that children living in stable home environments rarely face, obstacles that often times threaten the child’s ability to succeed and their future well-being. The ripple effect of homelessness is widespread, impacting the health, development, and educational achievement of a child.

• Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities
• Homeless students transfer schools more often, have higher rates of truancy, and have lowered standardized test scores
• Homeless students have a higher drop-out rate and are 87% more likely than their peers to leave school

As evidenced above, there is a strong correlation between housing, academic performance, and personal success. Often times when a child demonstrates negative behaviors and failing grades, the community responds with a quick fix to improve the child’s life within school walls. However, the primary cause of these tendencies is often times directly linked to the child’s home life and personal living conditions.

An organization that explores a holistic approach to improving student academic performance is the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCCC). This collaborative effort brings education and community leaders together to facilitate disciplined community collaboration to improve educational outcomes that promotes success in every student while examining the factors that influence a child both in and out of the classroom. TCCCC’s vision:

• Every child in the tri-county region will graduate from high school prepared for either further education or employment in the modern workforce
• Every child will be prepared for school
• Every child will be supported in and out of school
• Every child will succeed academically
• Every child will graduate from high school prepared for either further education or employment in the modern workforce
• Every student enrolled in post-secondary education will complete successfully and will enter a career

SCCLF’s executive director holds a seat on the TCCCC board of directors and as an organization, SCCLF represents the community development sector and the critical role a stable living environment has on a child’s ability to succeed in life.

Homelessness among our nation’s school-aged children must be eradicated if we are to ensure our children are prepared to live full, happy, and successful lives. It starts with just one child. If we, as a community, can provide a safe, affordable home for one child and his/her family, we are making a difference. A difference that will have a ripple effect that will be felt across our entire state and nation.

Please visit Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative to learn more about this worthwhile initiative.