A Partner in Parenting Today’s Homeless Youth

In recognition of National Homeless Youth Month, we are featuring the work of Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for our Family Haven Shelter.

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

The Salvation Army’s Family Haven shelter houses between 40 and 50 homeless children at any given time. “Most of our families have been doubled up with another family, couch surfing as long as people are willing to put them up, and then they reach the end of the line with nowhere to go,” says Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for Family Haven.

“My job is to help our clients regain self-sufficiency, while looking out for their children,” she explains. Shalonda ensures that children that enter the shelter are enrolled in school within 24 to 48 hours of entry. “By law, these children are allowed to remain in their home school district, or they can transfer to Pattonville, our district. I assist the parents in making certain that they can get their children enrolled, and serve as the family’s advocate in the education process.”

At Family Haven, Haynes serves as an advocate for resident children in disciplinary processes, working to coordinate cooperative solutions between her families and schools, and ensuring that the rights of all parties are recognized throughout the process. Children who may have educational diagnoses or development delays are assessed by Haynes, and referred to the school district or Parents as Teachers for further analysis. Shalonda remains as involved as the parents’ wishes dictate throughout diagnoses and implementation of a formal education plan.

The typical stay for a family at Family Haven is less than 5 months, but Haynes continues to work with children and families long after they have left the shelter. “By helping the children, I am also helping the parents to parent better. I continue to be involved with these families for as long as they need me, to ensure that their needs are being met by schools, parents and the like.”

“Many of my parents are dealing with [the Department of Family Services]. I work with them to establish visitation, to strengthen their parenting skills through our mandatory parenting classes, and I accompany them to their court and administrative hearings to make sure they have someone who can explain their rights to them throughout the process,” she says, “These parents come into our shelter with a lot on their plate, and sometimes their children’s education takes a back seat. They are still wrapping their brains around being homeless, and we have to throw a lot of stuff at them upon arrival – tasks that need to be completed in a timely fashion in order to get them on their feet again. They need a partner to step in when they just cannot do it all.”

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