On November 10, 2021, Schoolhouse Connections sponsored a briefing, “Year-in-Review and Preparing for 2022.” Lisa Pilnik, Child & Family Associates, facilitated the panel of Child Welfare experts including Heather Hanna, National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), Cameron Rifkin, National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), and Alleane Anderson, Schoolhouse Connections
This year, the main theme of state legislation surrounded combatting youth homelessness and adverse results especially during the pandemic which has created such pressure within the nation’s education systems. A variety of state action has taken place including:
- California, Arkansas, Washington, and Illinois where legislators adopted legislation to assign housing liaisons at higher education institutions to youth at risk of homelessness.
- California, Maine, and Nevada where legislation increased the amount of days youth can stay in shelters, strengthened outreach for those in shelters, and prevented out of school suspensions or expulsions for youth in foster care or experiencing homelessness.
- Nevada and North Dakota expanded access to health care by eliminating the need for parental consent or proof of homelessness.
- Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico waived record or license fees for youth experiencing homelessness and;
- California, Maine, and Oregon expanded grant opportunities for shelters, enhanced background screening for employees, and now require annual reports.
Moving forward, Hanna and Rifkin urge everyone to contact their state legislators to pass these supportive legislations in more states. They recommend calling offices, scheduling meetings, and bringing data sheets to show the real impact these programs have.
Anderson focused her comments on how these legislative efforts are playing out on the federal level. She shared the statistic that 4.2 million youth and adults experience homelessness and the American Rescue Plan has an opportunity to invest in these programs. Two important programs in the plan are the Education for Homeless Youth Program and the Runaway and Homeless
Youth Act Program. While Congress appears to be a way from finalizing the FY 2022 appropriations, there are potential significant increases in both the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Act and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Program. These programs are monumental because they provide flexible and wraparound services, so grant recipients are not restricted and can decide what is most necessary for the communities they serve.
Anderson also discussed the provisions of Build Back Better (BBB). BBB offers a learning and child care entitlement. The entitlement provides direct child care services for lower income children under the age of six and a universal preschool program for children 3-4. To ensure accessibility, the universal preschool program offers transportation for children. BBB also covers rental assistance and preservation of new and current public affordable housing infrastructure.