Parent-Child Home Program Graduate Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity

A graduate of the Parent-Child Home Program’s early literacy and school readiness program for homeless families in Suffolk County, New York, testified about her experiences as a homeless child at the Subcommittee’s hearing on “The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2011: Proposals to Promote Economic Independence for Homeless Children and Youth.”

Sarah Benjamin, the Mobile Outreach Parent-Child Home Program Coordinator in Suffolk County who attended the hearing with the former participant and her mother, notes “As you listen to this 12-year-old’s testimony as a member of the youth panel, one can see in the midst of family struggles, one consistent thread is that she feels secure when she is in her mother’s presence. She gathers strength from a strong and warm relationship with her Mom. Despite her struggles, she is a beautiful, strong, hopeful child. This is a tribute to the positive outcomes that can come from a strong parent-child bond. Her mother was fortunate to receive home- visits through the Parent-Child Home Program, which prepares young children for school and life success by increasing language and literacy skills, enhancing social-emotional development and strengthening the parent-and child relationship (www.parent-child.org). For three years, her family was visited by the same home visitor and received new books and toys to keep and use. Without this program, this family would have not had any support in the early years of their children’s development. They were not able to access center-based early childhood education for their children as they moved over 16 times. As a result of the support she and her mother received, this former participant has been an above average student and has developed into an articulate young person, able to stand up and speak for children everywhere.”

PCHP Graduate’s Testimony

Hello. I’m 12 years old, and I’m in 7th Grade at William Paca Middle School in Shirley, New York. I’m here today with my mom, and also with Ms. Benjamin, from the Parent-Child Home Program.

I’ve lived in over sixteen places in my life: six shelters, four times doubled-up with many different people, and we had our own house six times. We also had to go to emergency motel rooms many other times, in between shelters and houses. I really hate moving from place to place. It is so hard because you get to know people and then have to move. It has made my life hard.

When we lived with other people, they were not always nice to us. We couldn’t ask them for anything. They were mostly mad that we were there and did not want anyone else to know,especially their landlord. They would never let us say we were there. My mom could never tell anyone where we lived, or for how long. It was like being invisible.

The hardest thing about living with other people was watching my mom cry. People would yell at my mom because we did not have any money, and they would yell at us to get out. It hurt me to see my mom hurting and I couldn’t do much to help her. I am always trying to help with my younger sister and brother to decrease my mom’s load when I come home from school. Mom has enough to do, so I try and play with them and keep them happy. So I do that at home, and maybe not so much homework. I do not have time to socialize because I am looking to see if I can help Mom. I follow her around to try and keep things going. If Mom is late for a bill, I worry and get afraid and do not ask for anything until it is paid.

It is especially hard for my two-year-old brother because he does not understand why Mom is crying. He cries, too, and he asks her not to cry. He wants Mom’s attention. She has to go out a lot to work and to appointments. He has to stay with different people. He has no daycare or preschool because there is no money for that or transportation and no openings near us. There are no services for his age except the Parent-Child Home Program. That comes to us.

We are in a house now, but things are not perfect. We had a hurricane and the roof caved in and my ceiling is still hanging and it is not fixed and the landlady yells at my mom.

I do not want to ever be homeless again. I think the only way that we will never be homeless again is if my Mom got a different job, a real job in an office or something. She works in a restaurant. I hope that will happen soon. This year she got a high school diploma and a driver’s license and she is going to school in a few weeks to be a Certified Nurse’s Assistant.

The things that have helped me to go through all this are being close to Mom and being close to God. Mom does good things for people even when we don’t have enough money and I know God will help us.

I would like people to know that it is different going through this than just hearing about it. You may not have ever experienced being homeless. It is worse than hearing about it or watching a movie about it. You are in it. There are a lot of kids going through it.

Thank you.

This family has been supported throughout their homeless crisis by their Parent-Child Home Program home-visitor who was able to connect them with the needed services available from other programs and agencies in the county. The family has continued to be in contact with the Program which has helped the mother pursue her education and will now be providing early education and school readiness services for the younger brother who also does not have access to early education opportunities. 

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