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Providing Consistency and Stability through Alternative Student Transportation: A Lifeline for Children and Youth in Foster Care or Experiencing Homelessness

Providing Consistency and Stability through Alternative Student Transportation: A Lifeline for Children and Youth in Foster Care or Experiencing Homelessness

December 28, 2023

Children require consistent care and a stable environment to grow and truly thrive. Ensuring they have reliable stability enables them to feel safe, cared for, and allows them to flourish. For children experiencing housing insecurity, including those in foster care or experiencing homelessness, stability and consistency can be a real challenge. Thankfully, there are federal acts in place, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (MKV), that help protect these basic needs when it comes to their education.

But what does this mean for school districts? Families? First, let’s explore the importance of consistency and stability for all children. Then we can look at how alternative student transportation plays a critical role in helping districts remain compliant with ESSA and MKV, and how leveraging alternative transportation enables students in foster care and those experiencing homelessness to maintain consistency in their education.

 

The Fundamental Importance of Consistency and Stability

  1. Emotional Well-being: Consistency and stability offer children a sense of security, belonging, and predictability, which are paramount for their emotional well-being. In stable environments, children can develop healthy attachments and relationships, which contribute to their overall happiness and mental health.
  2. Academic Success: When students stay at the same school for the full school year, they can better concentrate on their studies, rather than constantly playing catch up at a new school every couple of months, leading to improved grades and better educational outcomes.
  3. Developmental Milestones: Consistency enables children to establish routines and reach crucial developmental milestones, such as language development, social skills, and self-regulation. These milestones are pivotal for their future success and overall well-being.

 

The Unique Challenges for Foster Care and Homeless Students

  1. Children in Foster Care: Students in foster care often encounter frequent changes in living arrangements, schools, and even caregivers/guardians. These disruptions (and others) can severely affect their sense of security, making it even more vital to find ways for them to feel safe and consistently cared for.
  2. Students Experiencing Homelessness: For children experiencing homelessness, the lack of a stable living environment is one of many things that can lead to academic difficulties. Constant school changes, overcrowded shelters, and uncertainty about where they'll sleep that night take up a lot of their mindshare making it challenging to maintain educational progress.

 

Federal Acts Protecting Student Consistency and Stability

  1. The ESSA and Transportation for Children in Foster Care: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes provisions for the transportation of students in foster care. It mandates that school districts collaborate with child welfare agencies to provide transportation to and from their school of origin.
  2. The ESSA and Transportation for All Students: Beyond supporting students in foster care, ESSA also addresses the importance of transportation for all students. It requires that districts remove barriers to school attendance, which can include transportation issues that hinder stability and consistency in a student's life.
  3. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act: The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires essential support for children and youth experiencing homelessness. It requires that these students attend their "school of origin" whenever feasible, reducing the disruption in their education and ensuring they have a stable learning environment. This means school districts are required to provide transportation to these students to help maintain their educational progress.

 

How Alternative Transportation Can Help

Alternative student transportation providers, like EverDriven, help school districts transport students in small-capacity vehicles. This type of transport plays a pivotal role in ensuring that students in foster care and those experiencing homelessness can maintain much-needed consistency and stability in their education.

More traditional modes of transportation, like the yellow bus, may not always be readily available or suitable for these students because of their frequent relocations. The lack of a stable living situation that requires these children to be on the move causes constant route changes that can be difficult for a school or district to quickly reroute for a bus. Alternative transportation offers a lifeline by addressing the unique mobility challenges these students face. Rerouting a small-capacity vehicle that is only transporting a few students is a much more feasible task, especially if it needs to be done overnight or during the weekend.

By maintaining their access to their school of origin, the help of utilizing alternative student transportation not only reduces educational disruptions, but also provides a sense of stability in an otherwise turbulent environment. Ultimately this helps cultivate each student’s emotional well-being, promotes their academic success, and supports their overall development. All these things combined lead to a hopeful and equitable outcome to that of their peers. These students can thrive and have a much more promising future.

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