Helping Homeless Kids Stay in School

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There are 378 in the 2013-2014 school year alone so far.

Wood County tries to make sure McKinney-Vento kids stay in school.

Attendance Director Chris Rutherford says federal law defines homelessness a little differently than the educational system.

It goes beyond the traditional living in cars, living in shelters, living under the bridge or living in motels for temporary residence.

That is what's accounting for a lot of the increase in numbers.

"We also have families that are displaced economically," he says. "A family loses a job in the home, so they lose their residence... and they often move in with other family members or other friends to share housing as a temporary location. And during that time they may move out of different school districts."

Rutherford says when that happens, the goal of the McKinney-Vento Education Assistance Act is to provide educational stability because there's already a lot of turmoil in the family.

They want the child to return to the school they were attending before they were displaced by connecting them with services that can help, including DHHR, Westbrook, the Family Crisis Intervention Center, Latrobe Street Mission and Salvation Army.

"We work diligently when we hear of a situation... a principal calls, a teacher calls, a custodian calls, a cook calls, a community member calls," Rutherford says. "We start to go assist, we start to ask questions, we work with those phone calls and then we start to adddress the issues."

He says they even had several families living out of their cars for a while.

Often times the school system is one of the first places officially to hear about it and set the family in a better direction.

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