Homeless Infant and Toddler Bill – HB 2204

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Governor Thomas Corbett signed House Bill 2204, the homeless infant and toddler bill, on Tuesday, October 14.

HB 2204 amends the Early Intervention Services Act of 1990 to add a sixth category of at-risk children to trigger automatic tracking of an infant or toddler by early intervention services.  Currently, there are five categories that trigger the automatic tracking of a child by early intervention services.  These categories include children whose birth weight is under 1500 grams; children being cared for in neonatal intensive care units of hospitals; children born to chemically dependent mothers; children who are seriously abused or neglected; and children with confirmed dangerous levels of lead poisoning.

If a child does not fall into one of these categories, the parent can have their child tested in order to qualify for early intervention services.  In the case of a homeless parent, often times they will not seek out help for their children for fear that their child might be taken away due to their circumstances, and homeless shelters do not pro-actively offer the free developmental screening tools that are available. These children then go unheard and unseen by professionals who can help to improve their current and future lives.

An estimated 6,000 Pennsylvania infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) experience homelessness each year.  Most are in homeless shelters, and others are in camp grounds or vehicles, some are in temporary housing, or they move from place to place where anyone will take in their family.

We know from pediatricians and researchers that, trauma and poverty impact infants and toddlers in unique ways leading to low learning capacities, developmentally inappropriate behaviors, and long term learning, and physical and mental health problems. 

House Bill 2204 can be expected to guide homeless infants and toddlers to testing and, if needed, Early Intervention services.  Early Intervention services are evidenced-based practices that can get a child back onto their developmental track in time for schooling.

Read the final bill here: http://bit.ly/QiO9Mo

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