Home About Us Media Kit Subscriptions Links Forum

View All Articles

Download PDF










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month



















Education & Services for Homeless Children
by Matilda Raffa Cuomo

There are nine HELP USA facilities in New York State for homeless families and children. HELP USA's transitional housing model offers a comprehensive continuum of support services designed to help families address barriers to self-sufficiency and develop the skills they need to move into permanent housing. This continuum of care includes: case management, individual and group counseling, medical screening and services, health education, early intervention services, mental health services, access to substance abuse services, and post-placement services. In addition to on-site services, the continuum extends beyond the boundaries of the facility through collaborative linkages with community-based service providers.

HELP USA realizes that childcare and youth programs are essential to helping families become self-sufficient. To prepare the children for the future, HELP USA offers day care, after-school activities, evening care, and mentoring programs through Mentoring USA to assist working parents with their child care needs.

Mentoring USA, affiliated with HELP USA, the largest provider of transitional housing and on-site services for homeless families in the nation, provides mentoring services for youth at HELP's permanent housing facilities, such as Genesis Homes in East New York, Brooklyn, and Genesis Apartments in Manhattan. Mentoring USA also provides mentoring one-to-one for youth in the public schools, in community centers, and in foster care agencies throughout New York City.

HELP is the largest provider of day care services to homeless families in the New York City area, and cares for 500 children each day in its day care programs. HELP USA has high quality standards for its programs, and offers enriched educational opportunities in its classrooms. Each program provides at-risk children with a safe and nurturing environment that stimulates development. Lack of access to childcare is often a barrier to employment and HELP USA's day and evening care programs enable parents to find and retain jobs so they can support their families independently.

Our childcare programs are operated within the context of a comprehensive continuum of services for both the children and their families, and thus have the capacity to provide holistic care to participating children. Programming is designed to meet the needs of homeless children who are at high risk for developmental disabilities, language difficulties, and severe emotional and social delays because of the ongoing instability and traumatic events they have experienced. The primary purpose of the early childhood programming is to prepare participating children to succeed academically and socially once they enter the public school system.

Our child care model focuses on select areas such as language development; self-help skills and self-esteem; socialization, group living, and community awareness; fine motor skills development; science awareness; music, movement, and gross motor skills; and art appreciation. All of HELP USA's child care programs embrace the philosophy that the family plays a critical role in child development, and all program areas have a family involvement and support component.

At each transitional housing facility for homeless families, HELP USA also provides recreational and youth development programs for school-aged and high school aged children, which promotes a positive peer culture in a safe after-school environment. Programs focus on age-appropriate activities, including cultural events, academic assistance and tutoring, career development and exploration, computer literacy training, life skills workshops, and gang prevention activities. For example, in East New York, Brooklyn, HELP USA serves over 500 homeless and low-income children each day through Mentoring USA and Boys & Girls Club programming for younger children and targeted youth development programming for youth ages 11-18. Older youth gain real work experience through internships, computer literacy training, educational advocacy and assistance with career and college exploration.

After-school and recreational needs for resident children are provided with a range of services, including Mentoring USA, designed to help at-risk youth realize their full potential and become responsible, productive adults. After-school and recreational programs offer the following services to children between the ages of six and eighteen:

Supportive Education Services to enhance academic performance through a personalized educational support system which includes assessment, tutorials, daily homework assistance, computer education, scholarship assistance and educational guidance.

Youth Development focusing on building life skills, including communication, conflict management and decision-making skills. Small group modalities are used to promote values exploration, and to provide opportunities to practice decision-making and communication skills. Community service projects provide participating youth with opportunities to apply their newly acquired skills and to experience the value of team effort and peer support. Mentoring USA offers a better understanding of cultural diversity and positive conflict resolution.

Health Promotion programs and activities promote responsible behavior and the adoption of lifestyles (concerning sexuality, tobacco, drugs and alcohol) that are conducive to good health, especially nutrition education and the prevention of obesity.

Youth Employment programs help youth develop employment skills and knowledge of the world of work through formal training, referrals, job placement and work-related activities.

HELP USA and Mentoring USA's programs promote the long-term development of participating youth, and also have the more immediate impact of keeping at-risk children off the streets in a safe environment. The extraordinary variety of programs we offer is a reflection of how severe and diverse the problems of our homeless children are, notwithstanding we live in the world's richest and most blessed nation.#

Matilda Raffa Cuomo is founder and chairperson, Mentoring USA.



Show email





Education Update, Inc.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2005.