CPS Focus Group presents at National Association for the Education of Homeless Youth and Children (NAEHCY) conference

By Alyssa Phillips, Education Attorney

On October 9, members of CCH’s CPS Focus Group, a committee of grassroots leaders with children or grandchildren attending Chicago Public Schools, participated in a panel discussion at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) virtual conference.

The discussion centered on effective communication strategies between school personnel and parents experiencing homelessness during COVID-19. The parents shared their struggles with distance learning and gave their suggestions for school staff.

“My experience at the NAEHCY Conference was really great,” shared Maxica Williams, a CPS Focus Group member and CCH Board Member. “I felt like the information provided was an excellent blueprint for [Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS)] staff to support homeless students and families.”

Over 460 McKinney-Vento school liaisons, social workers and other school employees attended the session. Those in attendance had very positive feedback for the parent-led session and the parent-focused information that was shared.

One liaison said, “Parents as first and most important teachers! Thank you for your presentation!”

Another liaison said, “I very much appreciate the opportunity to hear from the parents! Thanks to each of you for your time. Great presentation!”

The CPS Focus group has done tremendous advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members have given interviews to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chalkbeat and WGN, which led to the donation of 31 laptops and more than $1,395 in gift cards that were distributed to homeless students.

Their advocacy was instrumental to Chicago Public Schools distributing 12,000 hotspot devices and 100,000 computing devices to families in need. CPS also agreed to work with the city of Chicago to implement the Chicago Connected program to provide free internet to students, prioritizing students experiencing homelessness.

The CPS Focus Group played a key role in drafting the guidance document, Supporting Homeless Students During the 2020-21 School Year Guidance for Schools and Districts that the Illinois State Board of Education posted on their website.

Both the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and state law protect the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness.

CCH’s Law Project provides free legal assistance to families and students experiencing homelessness. For assistance, please call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-940-1119 or contact Education Attorney Alyssa Phillips at aphillips@chicagohomeless.org.