Leaving an abusive relationship and navigating emergency shelter can be chaotic – and the back-to-school season shouldn’t add another layer of confusion.
According to the National Center for Homeless Education, children and youth who flee violent homes with a parent survivor and who become homeless as a result face many barriers, and these effects can have a pronounced impact on children’s adjustment in school, including their ability to learn and their concentration levels. A stable school experience can help ease some of the effects of domestic violence and homelessness on children.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that ensures children and youth who have lost their housing can attend school. It covers children and youth who are living in domestic violence shelters and ensures that they can continue to attend their same school, and receive transportation to that school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there.
Monica Jones, a clinical intern at our Montgomery County domestic violence shelter, wanted a creative way to organize and energize school kickoff time for our school-age children in shelter. The most creative way, she decided, to start was to hold a Back-to-School Bazaar. “I got the idea from spending time in Kuwait,” Jones said. “They had these wonderful bazaars.”
So, on Aug. 6, the YWCA multipurpose room was filled with smart games, healthy food, and all the supplies that make for a successful education for 16 families.
Jones diligently accounted for all the schools the students attended, locating individual school supply lists to ensure each child would start the year prepared, from the typical (backpacks) to the less common (mechanical protractors).
Not only did every child leave the Bazaar well-supplied, they continued the day with full bellies and a sense of excitement, with 10 pizzas donated by Domino’s and salad, fruit, and cupcakes. Studies show that food security – having reliable access to a sufficient amount of food – can affect learning as early as kindergarten, which is one reason we provide three meals a day, plus snacks, to families in shelter.
“I work closely with Tracey Green, our food service assistant,” Jones said. “We plan shelter meals together and she always comes up with good ideas – she whipped up this spread just based on what we had on hand!”
Jones’ work as a clinical intern includes coordinating children’s activities in shelter, and she hopes that her inaugural Back-to-School Bazaar will continue long after she leaves. For now, though, she’s already looking ahead to the next opportunity to support the families we serve as they move toward healing.
“I am always trying to find ways to kick-start each month,” Jones said. “I’m feeling a football theme for next month.”
Do you or someone you know need help? It starts with a call. Our crisis and domestic violence hotline is open 24/7/365: 937-222-SAFE (7233). Able to contribute to give children in shelter a successful school-year start? Find our Back-to-School donation wish list HERE.