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The relationships of homeless children in America's schools: How one middle-school teacher addressed this challenge

Mary Lochmann Voelker, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Until 1987, the onus for addressing the needs of homeless children in America rested solely upon supportive family members, compassionate neighbors, or concerned community leaders. In 1987, the United States Congress ratified the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (P.L.100-77), thereby requiring that public schools provide an education for homeless children. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB P.L.107-110, 2001) requires all public schools to immediately enroll homeless children. Another provision mandates designation of a liaison whose primary responsibility is to enlist the collaborative efforts of community and school personnel in order to address the needs of homeless students and their families. ^ This case study describes how one middle-school teacher contributed critical academic, social, physical and emotional support for homeless students within the context of the student-teacher relationship. Specific themes of openness, congruence, and excellence provided the warp upon which student-teacher relationships might be seamlessly woven for each of the community's students. Findings demonstrated how students experienced the power of a welcoming and helping community through the classroom teacher. ^ This instrumental case study has affirmed that community support could remove obstacles which impede teachers' opportunities to cultivate and nurture relationships with all their students, especially those who experience episodes of homelessness. The current research project identified steps that a community might take to initiate and sustain an ongoing process for identifying unmet needs, exploring viable ways to address those needs, implementing plans and evaluating the status of steps that are taken. In a larger sense, the project also demonstrated how autonomous tasks that provide students with time to work alone, group work that builds students' skills in collaboration and cooperation, and whole-group experiences that create a sense of the larger community will, in turn, strengthen student-teacher relationships and enhance academic performance. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Voelker, Mary Lochmann, "The relationships of homeless children in America's schools: How one middle-school teacher addressed this challenge" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3275061.