Homeless Children in Kentucky Increasing

by Pat Moynahan on December 13, 2015

Tiffany Smith, Children’s Law Center attorney

Tiffany Smith, Children’s Law Center attorney.

FLORENCE – Kentucky has more homeless children per capita than any other state in the nation, and the problem actually may be greater than the numbers indicate, according to a staff attorney for the Children’s Law Center (CLC).

The National Center on Family Homelessness ranked Kentucky worst in the nation on one scale of child homelessness (adjusted for state population) in 2013. The U.S. Department of Education subsequently counted more than 2,100 homeless children in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties alone in the 2014-15 school year.

“Everyone believes that number was low,” CLC attorney Tiffany Smith told Florence Rotarians at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 7. “They obviously don’t find them all. A lot of children go from one friend’s home to another friend’s home to another friend’s home.

“The number grows throughout the school year as families run out of money, too,” she added.

The Children’s Law Center in Covington is a non-profit legal service agency committed to protecting the rights of children and advocating for their needs. The center collaborates with other organizations on improving support systems for children as well as providing impact litigation and juvenile defender services.

Homeless children are at greater risk of abuse, mental health issues, difficulty in school and interaction with the juvenile justice system, Smith said. The CLC’s Youth Homeless Program helps to identify homeless children, to remove legal barriers and address homeless children’s needs.

For example, the Children’s Law Center works closely with the county school systems’ family resource coordinators, who Smith calls “the first line of defense in locating homeless children.” The center utilized a federal grant to create a resource guide for them.

The center also receives referrals from therapists and others who work with juvenile problems.

“We help to identify the child’s needs and prioritize them,” Smith said. “We talk with the child, help find a place to sleep and a school for education.”

In addition, the Children’s Law Center collaborates with agencies that provide case management and other support services.

However, the number of homeless youths keeps climbing.

“The numbers have increased 19 percent over the past two to three years,” Smith said. “It’s pretty heartbreaking.”