The issue under analysis is a policy by the New Yolk City Department of Homeless families. Homeless households in the city have been faced with challenges for long, and the city intends to make life easier for such families. Among the challenges is that for the parents to apply for housing, their children have to skip school since they have to appear physically for the initial interview. The prerequisite affects the outcomes of these children in school. Homelessness in New Yolk City disrupts the lives of children in all many areas. Under the rules, if a family applies for shelter and then fails, the family has to undergo an initial interview the next time the same family applies and the children have to appear.
To curb the many disruptions in the lives of the children, the homeless department is introducing a new policy. Under the new policy, families that have applied for the shelter in the last 30 days and failed are not required to bring children to the initial interview. Besides, for children who are uniting with families after being in foster care, the reunion will occur in the family’s shelter and not in PATH as previously done. Harris (2016) argues that 47 % of the families who applies once end up applying again within 30 days. The prevailing condition means that children end up missing school once a month to travel to the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Center for the interview.
The elementary aim of the new policy is to eliminate numerous obstacles that hinder the learning of homeless children. Statistics from the homeless department show that 40% of the homeless students missed school at least once a month in the period 2014-2015 (Harris, 2016). Also, children in stable families but have been homeless in the past perform worse than their peers. The policy seeks to make the life of the children more bearable. Advocates for the policy hope that the children will not be required to go PATH at all in the future. The city will depend on the shelters and schools to assess the children instead of the face-to-face interview at PATH.
How the Policy is Offering Support to the Homeless Families
Policy support to the families
Family responsibility is one of the family impact principles. A policy’s aim should be to support and empower the functions performed by the families in the society. Doing so requires capacity building and addressing the root cause of the families’ problem. Interfering with the living arrangements of families is only justified if it meant to protect the family from possible harm.
The policy has identified a vulnerable group in the society. The homeless families are highly susceptible more so the children. The homeless families are faced with extreme economic conditions and social needs. The lack of basic needs such as shelter, food, and access to quality education is just a tip of the challenges faced by the homeless families (Anderson & Koblinsky, 1995). These families require support from the government to be able to make life bearable. Failure to support these families makes the homeless problem become a grave and chronic problem. If the homeless children are not compatible, and the cycle of homeless is passed on to them and their children, then the number of homeless families would increase with time making the problem severe with time. The policy is thus trying to prevent a future catastrophe from occurring by offering support to the homeless children.
For capacity building, the policy has to supplement and support the functioning of families. Does the policy help families to fulfill their functions? This policy aims to improve the education capacities of homeless children. The best way to help the homeless families is through their children. It is common that the parents have no skills and thus hard to secure a job. However, if the children are well educated, they can take the family responsibilities in future and support their families. The policy is helping in eliminating any obstacles that prevent the children from performing well in schools.
The lack of adequate education for the homeless families is the root cause of their financial insecurity. Does the policy address the root cause of the problem? For capacity building, educating the homeless children will enable them to have the necessary skills in future to secure jobs and support their families. Such children can have the capacity to support other homeless children. Offering money and shelter to the families will not have long lasting results without the necessary skills to maintain themselves. Education is the best tool against poverty. The government cannot eradicate poverty by offering money to the socially vulnerable rather by empowering the families to support themselves.
Challenges: How the Policy Can Undermine Families
The main aim of the policy is to make sure children do not miss school as their parents try to acquire shelter. However, these changes in policy can undermine the families. The policy aims to address the unemployment and low wages problems by ensuring the children acquire good education. However, does the policy build capacity for the children? It is clear that children who have been homeless but are now stable still do not perform well in school. The children require accurate assessment to identify other hindrances to good school performance. The reason why children were required to visit the PATH for the first interview was for accurate assessment. These children have different needs, and it would be accurate if they were accessed from time to time. Many changes could occur in a 30 days period, but the policy is assuming that an assessment done 30 days ago is still viable. Though the department of homeless families plans to use social workers and teachers in conducting the initial assessments in future, they may not be the best-suited people to do so. Such people may be biased in assessing the children based on other external factors. From a personal standpoint, the PATH should have mobile offices in schools to assess the children. The assessment can be done on specific days in break time to ensure that homeless children attend school fully and accurate assessment occurs.
The fact that some of the children who are stable but were homeless in the past perform poorly in school as compared to their peers indicates that maximum school attendance may not be the complete answer. These children still have different other problems which affect their ability to perform well in school. It is significant for PATH to determine the social issues these children may be experiencing by employing professionals to assess the children before they are housed (Anderson & Koblinsky, 1995). The failure to appear in the initial interview may hinder this. A good example is that a child might have lost one of the parents in the 30 days grace period. If this does not appear in the first interview, then the assessment of the well being of the child is not accurate since losing a parent will affect the child emotionally and physiologically.
Beneficial effects that might have been overlooked without analysis
Without a vibrant policy impact analysis, some of the beneficial results might be ignored. In developing a family policy, the two principal questions to consider is how the system will enhance the capacity of the families for self-support and whether the policy will strengthen or hurt the families. Without family impact analysis, it would be hard to recognize that the system will benefit the homeless children by offering them good education thus the capacity to help their families (Vanclay, 2003). For parents, traveling to PATH with children where the families can wait for more than two days for the initial interview is challenging. This affects the ability of the children to balance time commitment to their education. With the children back at the shelters, the parents can thus work on acquiring housing while the children concentrate in school.
Harmful Effects That a Family Impact Analysis Might Help Avoid
Undoubtedly, the policy can have negative consequences for the families if the implementers fail to undertake comprehensive impact analysis. One of the avoidable adverse effects using impact analysis is an inaccurate assessment. The policy looks to strengthen the families’ responsibility by assisting them through capacity building. However, accurate assessment is very critical in making the system a success. Apart from education, there are other social challenges faced by homeless children, which require prompt identification and subsequent resolution through the support systems. Besides, the homeless families do not face similar social problems. Without accurate assessment, the government will end up taking over the family responsibility even when it is avoidable through accurate assessment. The family responsibility principle calls for capacity building and avoidance to take over family responsibility unless necessary.
Brief To Policy Makers
The homeless families are among the most vulnerable people in our society. There is a need to offer them support, but material support only cannot be enough. These families need the capacity for self-support in the future if the problem is to be controlled. Failure to solve the homelessness issue will lead to catastrophic challenges for the city in the future. If the homeless families pass the status to their children, then the problem becomes bigger. Though the city has resources, material support to the families is not the answer. The answer is installing capacity in these children so that they can help their families in the future. However, education is just but a step in building capacity. There are other methods for consideration.
It is agreeable that the policy will go a long way in making sure that children spend maximum time learning. However, statistical inferences affirm that children in stable families who were previously homeless perform poorly in school. The above tenet delineates that there are other challenges faced by such children even after they acquire basic needs such as shelter and food (Vanclay, 2003). The policy seeks to limit children from traveling with their parents to PATH for an initial interview. However, the original interview assesses the families for the challenges they are facing. It is significant in identifying the several problems a family is facing. If the first assessment is not accurate, then not everything else after that will be accurate. It is understandable that this aims to increase class attendance for the children, but policymakers might take into account the fact that the children might not perform well even after attending all the lessons. Compromising assessment for class attendance might not be the best thing to do. In a period of 30 days, a lot can change in the life of homeless families. The 30 days given to the children may be long. Besides, after 30 days, families applying for shelter will still have to come with the children. Only 47% of the families end up applying before the 30 days period is over. The other 53 % will thus have to bring their children for the initial interview.
The viability of this policy in empowering the homeless families is questionable. Compromising the assessment of the 47% of the families who apply before the 30 days grace period and forgetting about the 53 % of the families who apply after 30 days amounts to an erroneous policy. Policy makers will raise issues such as why the policy is considering the interests of 47% of the families and not the 53 %, which is higher. Why is it that the policy does not benefit all the homeless children in the city? From a family perspective, attending school is not the whole answer; there are capacity-building activities that are considerable. The PATH can have mobile assessment centers in schools where professionals can assess children during break time. It is significant to determine the specific challenges for particular children for maximum capacity building.
In analyzing the issue, I took the advocacy perspective since the aim is to influence decisions in the social institutions and systems. I am addressing the advocacy to policy makers in New Yolk city and other private sector individuals whose opinions and actions can have an influence on the policy makers. The policy will be helpful in addressing the family responsibility of the homeless families but further changes can be integrated in the policy to make it more effective.
Anderson, E. A., & Koblinsky, S. A. (1995). Homeless policy: The need to speak to families. Family Relations, 13-18.
Harris, E. A. (2016, September 01). Under New Policy for Homeless Families, Children Can Miss Less School. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/09/02/nyregion/new-york-homeless-families-path-policy.html?rref=collection/timestopic/Families and Family Life&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=collection&_r=0&referer=http://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/families-and-family-life
Vanclay, F. (2003). International principles for social impact assessment. Impact assessment and project appraisal, 21(1), 5-12.
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