Every child in our community should have access to quality child care, no matter what their family circumstances may be.

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AS city and county leaders declare a state of emergency over King County’s homeless situation, it is imperative that they acknowledge there are homeless children under age 5.

It’s common for our youngest citizens to be missed during nighttime homeless counts as families with young children are more likely to sleep in church basements, shelters, cars, or with friends or family members. They can be overlooked when the only children referred to in the state of emergency declaration are the 3,000 homeless children enrolled in Seattle Public Schools.

We urge elected officials to make emergency funding for homeless families with young children a top priority.

The profoundly destabilizing effect of a homeless episode is especially devastating to a young child’s health, development and well-being.

Deeann Burtch Puffert is CEO of Child Care Resources, a King and Pierce counties-based nonprofit that improves all children’s access to high-quality early learning experiences by engaging with families, caregivers and communities.
Deeann Burtch Puffert is CEO of Child Care Resources, a King and Pierce counties-based nonprofit that improves all children’s access to high-quality early learning experiences by engaging with families, caregivers and communities.

• Fifty-eight percent of homeless children have experienced three or more traumatic events by age 9 that can have negative, lifelong effects on health and well-being.

• Child care can act as a protective buffer that provides the stable supportive adult relationship a child needs, especially when homeless.

• Forty percent of sheltered homeless children in King County are under age 4, and 57 percent are school-aged.

Quality child care is a critical safety net — one that provides a safe place for children that is consistent and nurturing, a place to find predictable meals, to rest and to discover a sense of belonging. Child care offers developmentally appropriate care for children during their most impressionable years. Child-care providers who understand the unique needs of homeless children increase the likelihood that children will be prepared for success in school and life. In quality child care, a homeless child does not feel homeless.

Being homeless does not mean that parents do not work or go to school. Parents we serve need child care so they can take significant early steps that prepare them to look for jobs or further their education. Child Care Resources provides one-of-a-kind services to homeless families with young children by finding and paying for child care when no other subsidy will.

In 2014, we served more than 1,000 young children and 500 families. These short-term subsidies keep these struggling families moving toward self-sufficiency by allowing them to accomplish needed tasks. Yet we learned recently that due to new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding guidelines, we will no longer be eligible to receive $500,000 in annual funding.

Our homeless population explosion in King County demands attention — we cannot forget that this population includes infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. We believe that every child in our community should have access to quality child care, no matter what their family circumstances may be.

We ask that our city and county leaders identify a funding solution that allows this important program to continue to meet the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable residents.