Keeping Kids Stable and Thriving

On April 25, 2018, CSL received news that the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is providing support to help 600 kids achieve more in school by staying in school. The Foundation in Kansas City is granting CSL $300,000 over the next three years ($100,000 per year) to the Family Stability Initiative, a unique partnership with school districts where we work intensely with families to keep kids stably housed and enrolled in their home school all year.

Like me, you can probably remember students that you were in school with that appeared one day, and disappeared a few days or a few weeks later. My oldest son, who is in elementary school, talks about friends that just leave. A local principal told me that he had 270 kids in his school in August 2017 to start this school year, but by December 2017, 90 of them (one-third) had left. However, total school enrollment numbers remained steady, which meant that 90 new kids moved in and filled their seats. Imagine what that transiency does to kids. They don't feel stable or secure, and they have a hard time making social connections. Studies have shown that an unplanned move can set back a student up to six months of learning. When kids are on the move, there can be several days or weeks between formal enrollment in school districts. Once enrolled, it can take time for kids to acclimate to a new class, make friends, and feel comfortable to learn. Unfortunately, many kids will be back on the move again. I could elaborate more, but I'd encourage you to read "The Goodbye Kids" by Barbara Shelly and Elle Moxley. Their exposé about kids on the move tells the tragic story that thousands of kids in our area are facing. If we look at student data, we can unfortunately predict that, sadly, the more moves a child suffers through, his or her chances of succeeding dwindle. CSL's Family Stability Initiative has one goal - keeping kids stably housed and enrolled in their home school the entire year. It takes many strategies to keep families stable, including financial assistance, employment support, budget coaching, tenant-landlord advocacy, goal-setting, school meetings, home/auto repair, and much more. But, in the long run, stability will yield success.

This is going to be challenging work, but it’s in line with where we need to be. CSL must look, in everything we do, for ways to stop families from falling into poverty. Keeping families stably housed, connected and engaged to schools, and having a degree of stability and normalcy is paramount for other achievements in life to happen, like education, employment, financial stability, self-empowerment, etc.

Our Family Stability Initiative is rapidly growing. Here’s where that program stands now:

  • Original program launch was in 2014 in partnership with the Siemer Institute for Family Stability and United Way of Greater Kansas City. Bruce Bailey, MSW, leads that ongoing partnership with the Independence School District

  • Melodie Chrisman leads a partnership with the Blue Springs School District, and supports families as funding allows (the Mader Family Foundation made a gift a few years ago that helped seed the work in Blue Springs)

  • Family and Housing Stability was a part of the launch in service at Hawthorne Place Apartments in 2017

  • New cohort funded by Jackson County Children’s Service Fund in 2018 – for Blue Springs, Oak Grove, Fort Osage, and Grain Valley School Districts

  • New cohort funded by Jackson County Children’s Services Fund in 2018 – Independence School Disrict

  • New cohort funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, to support Hawthorne Place Apartment families in the Independence and Fort Osage School Districts.

  • We now have five full-time Case Managers overseeing cohorts that total 200-250 actively enrolled families, with 400-500 school-age kids!

When families are stable in a community, they develop a sense of belonging. When they belong, they open up and give of themselves, and they invest in a community (financially, emotionally, socially, spiritually, etc.). The Family Stability Initiative is a way to help us a build a stronger community. As communities, we need to look for ways to make sure that families feel invested and connected, and will fight to stay in place. We do not want families to "fly away" when things turn bad.

Please contact me if you have any questions about this work. As always, thanks for your interest in CSL and our neighbors that we help.

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