Testimony: Supporting Families with Children in NYC Shelters

Chloé Smith, MPH, director of programs for Children's Health Fund and lead for the Healthy and Ready to Learn (HRL) Initiative, testified before the New York City Council's Committee on General Welfare on June 11, 2024.
Chloe giving testimony

Good afternoon, members of the committee, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. My name is Chloe Smith, and as the director of programs at Children’s Health Fund, I lead CHF’s Healthy and Ready to Learn program.

Today we are hearing about ways that New York City can better support families with children in DHS Shelters. We’re happy to support Councilwoman Ayala and others as they introduce bills that will make life a little less challenging for unstably housed families across NYC. At Healthy and Ready to Learn we work in schools every day, and we know many of the students and families whose lives will be meaningfully impacted by these bills. We understand that children need to be in school to learn. They also need to be able to see the board, and hear their teacher. To do their best learning, they can’t be distracted by hunger or tooth pain.

Children and families don’t only need supportive policies, they also need programs, services and other supports that ensure their health needs are met and the environments where they live, learn, and play, are safe, are connected, and provide opportunities for developing strong relationships with caregivers.

HRL provides such support. We work with schools and parents to ensure that students are well positioned to thrive in school.

HRL was developed by Children’s Health Fund in 2014 as a part of our mission of supporting kids so they can thrive. It was developed recognizing the importance of education in helping kids to reach their potential, and that they need to be their healthiest selves to take advantage of educational opportunities. The program is designed to help schools identify and address health issues (many rooted in social, racial, and economic inequities) that impact student learning. We call issues like asthma, dental concerns, vision problems, and the experience of trauma, health barriers to learning. HRL, therefore, has evolved to include supporting trauma sensitive school and home environments to better address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and surrounding social issues like increases in overt racism and violence.

Through our current model, we leverage findings from our flagship school, P.S. 49 in the Bronx and in Councilwoman Diana Ayala’s district (D-8), to inform materials and trainings that we conduct with educators and parents citywide and through our Resource and Training Center (RTC). Launched in 2017, RTC is an online platform that enables Children’s Health Fund to scale our impact to reach students throughout New York City. Our online repository is equity and diversity focused and houses a broad library that includes infographics, fact sheets, interactive learning images, slide decks, external resource links. We have worked with partners, including the Office of Students in Temporary Housing to ensure that our resources are inclusive to newly arrived immigrant families, and families living in shelters, doubled up, or in other challenging housing environments.

Here is a snapshot of RTC’s and HRL’s impact:

  • Since 2017, nearly 44,000 users have accessed the website to request trainings, view recorded workshops, and download free materials to support their health and education work.
  • In FY 2023, our most recent, complete NYCC grant year, the RTC had 5,893 users.
  • From January 2023 to the present, we trained in 28 schools in 18 districts—delivering 69 parent workshops, 10 student workshops, and 4 professional development workshops—reaching 2,276 individuals.This coming fiscal year, with the support of NYCC we hope to expand into additional NYC school districts where teachers and parents need us most.

With the help of the City Council, HRL reaches thousands of families and educators throughout the city, every year, giving students the best chance of succeeding in school and life, no matter their housing circumstances.

Scroll to Top