The New York Times recently published a series titled Invisible Child, following the life of Dasani, an 11-year-old homeless girl living in New York City. Dasani and her seven siblings share a single room with their parents in a Brooklyn homeless shelter, where they have been living for nearly 3 years. The story is interwoven with commentary on larger social policy changes that have led to the largest number of homeless children ever, with children at increasing risk of lifelong negative outcomes, such as low educational attainment. A series of policy changes made by the New York City government leading to reductions in rent assistance and the number of low-income housing units left Dasani’s family without a home, while a lack of social services in their shelter make it extremely difficult for her parents to find a new home. Throughout the piece, Dasani is sheltered from some of the effects of her poverty by a caring and engaged school environment, one of the few safe places in her chaotic life. Her principal and several teachers provide role models for positive development and stability for Dasani, encouraging her to focus on school work and stay out of fights at school. Creating positive school climates is a key aspect of helping kids from all social situations.
On September 26, the Schubert Center hosted Emily Bazelon to speak about the importance of positive school climates; you can download an issue brief about this research here. The National Center on Family Homelessness reports 1.6 million American children experience homelessness annually, putting them at increased risk for illness, hunger, violence and delayed development. The vast majority of homeless families are female-headed households and children in homeless families are more likely to spend time in foster care. Several Schubert Center faculty associates are directly involved with research to improve the lives of children like Dasani and their families. The Center on Urban Poverty at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, home of faculty associates Claudia Coulton, Robert Fischer, and Sharon E. Milligan, conducts research examining how social and economic change can impact the lives of low-income communities. Faculty associate Anna Maria Santiago researches the impacts of housing policy and low-income families. Read Invisible Child.