Expanding Help and Hope for Homeless Infants, Toddlers Across Pennsylvania
Each year, an estimated 6,000 Pennsylvania infants (birth to 3 years old) are homeless. Some are in homeless shelters, some are in temporary housing, or they move from one place to another where anyone will take in their mother. Many of these homeless babies suffer from some kind of trauma or neglect.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, trauma, and poverty impact infants in unique ways, leading to low learning capacities, maladaptive behaviors, and lifelong physical and mental health problems. So does homelessness. Not investing in these early years will impact the long-term health, learning, educational outcomes and well-being of these children.
Access to early intervention services is needed to give these kids the best possible start in life. Right now, however, homeless infants and toddlers do not automatically qualify for tracking and early intervention services. House Bill 2204, introduced by Rep. Justin Simmons from Lehigh County, would automatically provide these services and tracking to homeless infants. The bill gained unanimous support in the House Human Service Committee and is on track to be debated in the House this June. The strongly bipartisan bill has more than 30 cosponsors, including the Democratic and Republican chairs of their caucuses’ Policy Committees.
Removing bureaucratic barriers to help to automatically provide mother and baby Early Intervention services will allow Pennsylvania counties to develop a customized service plan for these babies and their mothers that complement other homeless services. LAMPa supports HB 2204 and will keep advocates up to date on its progress.