Toronto

Education suffers for children in shelters, says report

The first Canadian study to investigate the relationship between education and homelessness finds that children who grow up in shelters are much more likely to have a badly disrupted education.

ACanadian study to investigate the relationship between education and homelessness has found that children who grow up in shelters are much more likely to have a badly disrupted education.

The study finds children in the shelter system are likely to change schools several times and have a fragmented education.

The report released Monday, titled Lost in the Shuffle, looked at children in sheltersbetween the ages of six and 12.It found close to 60 per cent had changed schools during the year.

"Most of the children who go to a shelter will change schools three times in the year that they experience homelessness," said Ann Decter, who wrote the report.

Decter said parents found it difficult to get their children to settle into homework. One shelter housed more than 120 children at one time.

Rhonda Roffey is not surprised by the findings.The executive director of Women's Habitat, a Toronto shelter, said women often have to choose between poverty or violence.

"Sometimes the violence is more manageable than the poverty, so women will go back and forth, which means the kids change schools, change shelters a number of times, before they end up stabilizing at all," she said.

Mary-El Milosh spent 35 years as an educator."It seems to me it is drastically unfair for children to be paying such a high price for societal issues."

Milosh said the study shows homelessness can cause serious disruption to a child's education. "When they're experiencing uncertainty and fragmentation and homelessness and stress, their minds really are not focused on what they're doing, and they're having to adjust and settle all the time."

Heather Ricketts spent five months in a women's shelter.She said her nine-year-old son initially acted out. "He rebelled at lot. He would go to school and do things to strive to get attention," she said.

The study was prepared by an east-end agency, Aisling Discoveries Child and Family Centre, and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto. Researchers spoke to close to 200 children, parents, shelter staff and teachers.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including having school board staff track those children who are forced into the shelter system.

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