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Utilizing Related Services to Meet Students' Needs

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will explain the roles of professionals who provide related services for young children and their families. We will also explain strategies for collaborating with colleagues and other professionals to respond to children's needs and to enhance the learning environment.

Beyond Academia

In addition to their educational needs, students have a variety of needs with which the school can help by providing services. By collaborating with community agencies set up to provide for these needs, schools can decrease the likelihood that students will have unmet needs impeding their ability to learn. Some of these needs may be related to food, housing, mental health, medical care, transportation, or communication. Schools can help meet these student needs by providing a contact list for the various community resources that help with specific, non-educational needs and by offering systems advocacy, helping those in need navigate these various systems.

Families have diverse needs that can be met by collaborating with available community resources
image of community support

Food

Many students may be facing precarious economic situations that can result in not having enough food to eat when they go home. Schools recognize this and have programs in place for free and reduced lunch, as well as food assistance for holidays and summer when school's out and students are home more. Increasingly, schools are relied on to feed children in poor households. Other options include the federal supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP), food banks, soup kitchens, and churches. Some schools host an after-school meal and occasionally will host a supper as a way to involve the family in the school community.

Housing

Given the recent economic crisis in the housing market, many families may struggle to find affordable, appropriate, and safe housing options. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, child homelessness is at an all-time high of approximately 2.5 million homeless children. This represents one in 30 of the general population, which translates to approximately 1 student in each large classroom. Every city and county has homeless families and, therefore, most school districts will have homeless students. School staff can utilize community housing services to meet these needs by connecting families with low-income and affordable housing options. Be prepared with apartment listings and contact information for public housing.

Mental Health

One in five people have a mental health condition. Many students may present early symptoms of developing mental illness. It is important that schools have access to information that will help them identify and respond to a child in a mental health crisis. Some of these services might include counseling, group therapy, case management, or medication and psychiatry. Most of these resources operate on a sliding scale based on income, so families having economic struggles can still afford services.

The hotline is a free resource for those having a mental health crisis
hotline 800273TALK

Medical Care

Because one in five children live below the poverty line in the United States, medical care can be an expensive luxury out of reach for many. By providing dental care, hearing tests, and vision screening for glasses, schools are already helping to identify some of the medical needs students may face. Another strategy that schools can use is to investigate Medicaid programs in your state, as well as the federal Affordable Care Act, and provide assistance to families who need help applying to these programs. Occasionally there are income-based medical services offered in the community that provide some care based on suggested donations.

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