Early Education and Care Resources as Child Care Re-Opens

At Homes for Families’ June Community Meeting, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care shared timely updates on the re-opening process of child care centers across the state.

Early Education and Care Resources as Child Care Re-OpensThere were some key resources shared including interactive trainings and webinar series available free online; as well as tools and resources for families and providers to use with children. Please see below for these resources that have received positive feedback from providers and came highly recommended by EEC! You can find EEC’s powerpoint here, and an infographic with more about Head Start in particular, a type of child care that all children experiencing homelessness are eligible for, here. In addition, the department is continually updating their Frequently Asked Questions around the re-opening process. You can find their most recent FAQs document here, including information regarding subsidies on pages 16 and 17. 

Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness
8 interactive modules

Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness Webinar Series
three-part webinar series features exemplary practices

Five Ways to Protect Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19 SchoolHouse
Connection (SHC) offers five strategies for young children

ss/ videos, guides, printable activities

We would also like to share some resources on early education as it pertains to racial equity:

  • A report from CLASP on addressing racial inequity in child care and early education policies
  • A Resource List for talking with children about race, racism and racialized violence from the Center for Racial Justice in Education

We hope you find these resources helpful as we navigate what Massachusetts’ re-opening process looks like. For more resources and ongoing action opportunities, please stay connected with us via social media: Facebook & Twitter.

Liz and Team HFF

Thoughts, Tools and Resources for Promoting Racial and Immigrant Equity Amidst COVID-19

At our May Community meeting, Policy Action Team meeting, and Consumer Advocacy Team meeting we discussed COVID-19, equity, immigration and race. We learned a lot from a variety of different presenters, including MIRA coalition, HarborCOV and the Massachusetts Public Health Association (the lead agency behind the Equity Task Force on COVID-19). We are happy to share some of our key take-aways, along with resources and suggestions for providers!

Key Take Away #1: The virus is compounding existing inequalities in our society

Some examples from HarborCOV:

Coronavirus and Immigration: ILRC's Resources and Responses ...
  • Chelsea, a city with one of highest rates of COVID in Massachusetts, has a large working class, immigrant, and POC population. It is hard to practice social distancing because there is a lot of overcrowded housing. Moreover, these working folks are highly represented in social service jobs. They need to work to continue to feed their families and pay rent, and therefore have a higher chance of becoming infected. But unfortunately, many of these folks are cut out of benefits — they are ineligible for stimulus checks or unemployment, if they have not had a work permit for long enough.
  • Decades of racist policing, prosecution, and sentencing have resulted in the gross over-incarceration of POC, particularly black men. Social distancing is impossible in jail, and these folks are often ignored for basic medical care, let alone COVID prevention measures. These injustices compound, so people who have already been over-policed are now over-punished with COVID exposure.
  • Similarly, this administration has resisted offering medical care to people in immigration jails. Despite the government’s reluctance to test these folks, approximately 50% of ICE detainees who have been tested are positive for COVID. People in immigration jail often have no criminal charges or, by definition, have likely already served their criminal sentence. The government is unnecessarily punishing them with incarceration and COVID exposure.

Here, an HFF Consumer Advocacy Team member, who is a critical worker, describes some of the added challenges that essential workers are facing right now:I still had to go to work but was scared to commute to work on the MBTA so I had been taking UBERs/Lyft’s. However, because many people aren’t working right now the ride share prices have gone up and they are not doing their pool option, which makes it expensive to go to work. Then, having to find some ne to watch my kids has also been a struggle because many people do not want people coming in and out of their houses during this time. I had to make the decision to stop working”

Key Take Away #2: Data plus priorities chosen through a racial equity lens are needed to address inequalities

There is important advocacy underway to urge Massachusetts policymakers to collect and report out on COVID-19 related data by race and other key categories (e.g. immigrant status, occupation status). Learn more and take action here! Meanwhile, we can improve our advocacy and services, if we also questions about unintended consequences and who benefits the most by our chosen policies and practices.

Freedom for Immigrants (@MigrantFreedom) | Twitter

Here are some questions that might be used as a guide when deciding on policy and practice changes:

  1. What are the racial impacts and who will be most impacted?
  2. Who will benefit and who will be burdened; and have we considered unintended consequences?
  3. How are affected community members engaged in this?
  4. How can we monitor implementation?

Key Take Away #3: Opportunity to shift our frame on “essential workers”

Inspired by MIRA Coalition: This experience with COVID-19 has highlighted the variety of different essential workers in our communities and across our country. They are disproportionately immigrants, people of color, and people with lower-incomes. We need to come to understand and appreciate “essential workers” as essential and valuable not only in times of crisis, but all of the time.

Resources and Recommendations for Providers

From MIRA Coalition: We urge service providers to really think about the ways that they can be flexible in how they provide services to ensure they are inclusive.

  • Some barriers to consider include participant’s lack of awareness of scope of services due to a language or cultural barrier.
  • Understand immigrants can have fear of exposure. A provider can sit down to fill out an application and may not realize that if they are working with an immigrant family, disclosing a lot of this info can feel really risky.
  • There can be general mistrust of authority that is well founded based on what immigrants have experienced in their home country but also what they have experienced here. It’s important to understand that privacy and secrecy can be a strategy that is adopted to keep safe and not necessarily an indication of whether they trust you as a service provider.

Some Resources on Immigrants, Public Charge, and COVID-19:

We hope you find these resources and insights useful in our ongoing collective work to learn, improve, and get to the root causes of inequities that many families experiencing homelessness are confronting.

In solidarity,

Liz and Team HFF

Better Understanding Public Charge

We previously posted on how you can take action to prevent the public charge rule from taking effect, and despite Massachusetts and and other states surpassing their goals on advocacy in opposition to the proposed changes around public charge, the new rules are slated to take effect October 15th. Some members of the immigrant community will be assessed more harshly when officials are determining if they will be a public charge, and their applications for legal status therefore denied.

We had the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (MIRA) present at our September Community Meeting. They are a part of a larger nationwide coalition Protecting Immigrant Families, and emphasized that no one needs to un-enroll in benefits. Immigrants affected by public charge assessments are those who will not be found eligible for public benefits to begin with.

For more on what public charge is, what will be changing, and how you can take action see MIRA’s fact sheet. You can also go to https://ProtectingImmigrantFamilies.org/. Congress can act to prevent the Trump administration from having the funding to carry out the rule changes. You can get your voice on record with your congresspeople, via the Protecting Immigrant Families website, where it says Take Action. Most likely, our best bet to stop the changes, is through one of the 6 lawsuits underway.

You can also share stories of impacted families with your elected officials (if it’s not your story of course seek families’ approval and keep their information anonymous). All stories are helpful: not only related to public charge, but as they relate to other immigration issues including on the pending HUD proposal that would make families of mixed immigrant status ineligible for section 8 housing. See our previous post on this!

In solidarity with immigrant families,

Team HFF

Telephonic Intake Discussion: July Community Meeting

Telephonic/Electronic Intake

This month at Community Meeting, families, providers, and others had an open discussion around telephonic/electronic intake systems for Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter. Following that discussion, families of the HFF Consumer Advocacy Team supplemented and reinforced the questions, concerns, and experiences that came out of the discussion.


The following is a summary of concerns & experiences identified by families & providers, and supplemented and reconfirmed by a second group of families. 

  • The current face-to-face process serves a vital function by providing families experiencing homelessness a physical place of refuge in the office while undergoing the process of applying for shelter.
  • Families felt strongly that if telephonic/electronic intake becomes the norm, safe spaces/places of refuge need to be provided.
  • A safe space is necessary where families can access the internet, charge their phones, access computers or scanners, and stay warm/sheltered while applying for EA. Families identified a need for regional locations where these things are provided.
  • Domestic Violence is a significant cause of/contributing factor to families experiencing homelessness in the EA system — a safe space to apply for shelter is essential. Some survivors may not have a cell phone on hand.


  • “The telephonic system feels black & white, rigid.” Each change to the intake system leads towards a more impersonal system.


  • The elimination of face-to-face interaction removes the emotional and personal connection between families and the worker on the other end who is determining whether or not a family can access shelter.
  • Without the face-to-face process, the human interaction can be more easily overlooked – that human connection can be essential when it comes to whether or not someone will take the time and energy to fully understand a family’s situation.


  • Families and providers were concerned about communication, especially when going through the placement process. Families need to know who will be contacting them and when, and providers need to be able to get in touch with families if a phone is disconnected, out of minutes, etc.
  • Families and providers identified that there is a high chance of families experiencing homelessness changing phone numbers, having a phone disconnected, having no phone/access to technology at all.
  • Concerns around not being able to get in touch with families when needed and families not receiving the documentation they need when they need it.
  • These concerns lead to the question of accountability — placing the responsibility on families to respond to phone calls, especially given the realities described above, holds families accountable for any difficulties in communication. This would end up placing all the burden on families rather than requiring that DHCD and providers ensure that families receive information.


  • Concerns around both submitting and receiving paperwork. The technical requirements for submitting paperwork could prevent families from accessing shelter. If a family is denied, how can it be ensured that the family receives the necessary information on reason for denial, etc.


What will the process for uploading documents look like? If it is done with smartphones etc., what about families who do not have access to a smartphone, place to charge, data/minutes?

Will it be a toll-free 1-800 number? Will there be a cost for families calling from out-of-area etc.?

What sorts of training will intake workers receive, specific to going through a telephonic intake process with a family who is experiencing a crisis?

What will the process look like if a person is deaf or has any disability? Or if a person is not familiar enough with technology to complete the process? What if a person does not have access at all to a smartphone or computer?

What happens if the shelter does not/cannot reach out to families about their placement?

How will families know who will be contacting them or sending documents about their placement, and when and how that will happen?

Going Forward

These conversations are part of ongoing process to engage the community so that these questions and concerns are thoroughly addressed if and when a new telephonic system is adopted. Please share your feedback with us about what was shared in this post or any other questions, concerns or experiences. Your voice is essential in efforts to have a system that works for all families.

The Conference Committee Budget includes language in the DHCD Administrative Line Item to ensure continued in-office application sites (see the actual language at the bottom of this page) and is at risk of being vetoed by the Governor.

If keeping in-person applications an option is important to you, you can call the Governor’s office at (617) 725-4005 and ask that they do not veto this language & explain why in-person application sites are important.

Sign up for our email list to stay updated as the process moves forward.


The Conference Committee Budget includes language in the DHCD Administrative Line Item to ensure continued in office application sites:

provided further, that not later than September 1, 2018 the department shall promulgate and uniformly enforce regulations clarifying that a household that otherwise qualifies for any preference or priority for state-subsidized housing based on homeless or at-risk status shall retain that preference or priority notwithstanding receipt of assistance that is intended to be temporary including, but not limited to, any temporary or bridge subsidies provided with state or federal funds which shall include households receiving assistance under item 7004-0108 after July 1, 2013; provided further, that the department shall operate local offices in the 10 cities and towns in which the department maintained office locations as of January 1, 2018 in order to continue to accept in-person applications and provide other services related to the emergency assistance housing program funded by item 7004-0101; provided further, that such offices shall sufficient staffing to determine eligibility promptly and provide other program services to families; provided further, that the department may operate additional local offices in other cities or towns that are geographically convenient to those families who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness; provided further, that not later than September 1, 2018, the department shall submit a report to the house and senate committee on ways and means which shall include a spending and operational plan for maintaining in-person offices and detailing any plans the department may have to make greater use of telephonic service delivery to augment in-person services;

Recap: Conversation with DCF at the June Community Meeting

The Department of Children and Families (DCF)

This month Homes for Families hosted a Community Meeting where families, providers, senior staff from DCF and other members of the community came together for a conversation. About 35 people attended the meeting and much of the time was used for Q&A with DCF staff.

Thank you to the DCF staff who came to present and engage in conversation with members of the community, including a great presentation by Amy Mullen regarding DCF housing services and Health & Safety Assessments for families applying for shelter.

Amy Mullen, Director of Housing Services

Rebecca Brink, Assistant Commissioner’

The conversation/Q&A at the meeting touched on the broad nature of DCF’s work and what that looks like for families and children experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Below are some of the key concerns that came out of the discussion:


Health & Safety Assessments (EA Eligibility)
More than 60% of families applying for EA shelter cite Health & Safety as a reason for homelessness. DCF conducts Health & Safety Assessments to determine whether the family/children are at risk, and provide this information to DHCD for their EA eligibility determination.

Between July and March of FY ’18, DCF conducted 2,137 Health & Safety Assessments for families applying for shelter.

blog post graphic 1 june CM-01


  • There was debate about how private 51A’s are, to what extent they “follow” families, and what the impacts for families are. It is unclear where 51A’s may show up on a person’s record, for how long, and to whom. Concerns were raised about the longstanding impacts 51A’s may have on families’ lives in areas such as housing, restrictions from becoming a foster parent, etc.
  • Significant discussion around how families can ask for support, and the realities they may face when doing so. Folks brought up that there is no clear option for families to ask for supports that DCF may be able to offer without having a case opened. DCF stated that when a family calls “on themselves,” if a risk is perceived, the worker will file a 51A.
  • Some shelter providers who attended voiced concerns about a new wave of pressure to file 51A’s even when the conditions do not warrant it, especially when the issue has to do with shelter rule violations.

In February of 2018, a point in time count revealed there were 973 families in EA shelter who had open cases with DCF. There was a total of 3,592 families in EA at the time. 


Race, class, poverty & DCF

  • Both DCF and attendees agreed that race, class & poverty play a significant role in who is targeted for involvement with DCF.
  • Many attendees were very concerned about situations where a family has fully completed every aspect of their family reunification plan, but is struggling to secure a stable place to live. The impact of race and class on housing create barriers to family reunification that specifically target people of color and extremely low-income families.
  • Attendees stated that the Department has a responsibility to explicitly address the role of racism and classism in their work with families; i.e. how housing instability and other realities that result from institutional and interpersonal racism and/or classism unjustly targets families for scrutiny and a very real threat of family separation.


Mental Health
Questions were raised around how mental health is approached/perceived by DCF and what that means for heads of household who live with any kind of mental/emotional health issue.


Family reunification & the inaccessibility of programs like RAFT/HomeBASE
What happens when stable housing is the only thing standing in the way of family reunification?
More than one community member at the meeting voiced serious concerns around the lack of accessibility to programs like RAFT and HomeBASE for families who may not at that moment be in custody of their children — an unstable housing situation may be the only thing preventing a family from reunification with their children. The conversation focused on taking steps to create a process where families can access housing assistance when that can lead to family reunification.


Do you have questions, comments, or have a lot to say about DCF’s role in families’ lives and in shelter? Join Homes for Families at Visioning Day 2018 on Tuesday, August 14th in Worcester, MA.  



Authored by I.W. & N.M., June 25th, 2018

Recap: May Community Meeting (Gentrification & Displacement)

Gentrification & Displacement

Big shout-out to everyone who came and helped fill up the room this month for our Community Meeting talking about gentrification, displacement, and the work being done in response.

Presentations and discussion with local organizers/advocates:

City Life/Vida Urbana

Boston Tenant Coalition

Chinese Progressive Association

Homes for Families considered it important to host a discussion around gentrification & displacement because of how related the topics are to the issues of housing and homelessness. These issues matter for the families that we serve and partner with; they affect families at the front and back door of shelter; and they affect families with and without subsidies.

Themes & ideas that came to light in the discussion:

  • On anti-displacement organizing:
    • Protecting families from displacement impacts the larger community and it is the moral thing to do.
    • Informing tenants of legal rights is important, but often legal rights are not enough.
    • Being there at the right moment can mean saving somebody’s home.
      • So many people in so many communities are facing the same thing:
        “Because we don’t speak, they get away with it.”

    • City Life/Vida Urbana shared examples of successful organizing to keep people in their homes and their communities in the face of gentrification/displacement pressures.
  • Rent regulation was a recurring theme:
    • With such widespread recognition of the housing affordability crisis, why is there no serious discussion of rent regulation?
  • People spoke on the importance of uniting people around the commonalities that exist between people’s different situations.
  • Incremental policies/policy changes at the City of Boston level, and the state, are being advocated for to minimize the impact of gentrification and displacement
    • The City’s Office of Housing Stability
    • Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)
    • Short-term rental regulations (e.g. Air BnB, happening at City & State levels)
    • Jim Brooks Stabilization Act
  • Emphasizing community/consumer leadership and involvement in policy initiatives, such as small group discussions as public testimony around AFFH.
  • Local policy action can influence/put pressure on other localities and the state to take similar actions.
  • “[Anti-displacement] isn’t about concentrating poverty — it’s about building community.”


Questions? Comments? Let us know on twitter, facebook, or email us at iwhitney@homesforfamilies.org



CHANGE OF LOCATION: The June meeting with DCF will be at ABCD, Cass Room, 3rd Floor, 178 Tremont St.


Authored by I.W., May 10th, 2018

Recap: April Community Meeting (w/DTA)

Families, EA providers, and community members, and staff from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) came together last week  to discuss potential changes to TAFDC. 

The increased asset limit (to $5,000) was the only change to TAFDC included in the House Ways and Means FY19 budget proposal. 

Amendments have been filed for other proposed changes, see a full analysis by MLRI here (updated April 12th). 

In March DTA’s Commissioner McCue delivered his FY19 budget testimony. 

John Stella, Director of Economic Assistance & Megan Nicholls, Assistant Director of Family Assistance from the Department of Transitional Assistance presented proposed changes to TAFDC, and engaged in an in depth Q&A with more than 25 community members who attended.

After DTA’s presentation and Q&A, we heard comments and concerns around the potential changes to TAFDC and the work of DTA more broadly. Here are some of the points that were made:

  • Communication remains a challenge and barrier – program participants are not able to access information specific to their case, and the issue of accessibility is a concern for many in discussions around new/modified programs.
  • As of yet families have not vetted TAFDC proposals – DTA plans to incorporate this, but it is not clear to what extent family input will affect these proposed changes or future proposals.
  • Early and consistent communication with DHCD on proposed changes is important, for example adjusting DHCD program requirements to keep them in line with improved asset limits.
  • The relationship between the cost to families (time and resources) and administrative costs – limiting burdensome verification measures when implementing new or modified policies may reduce these costs both for families and for DTA.
  • Targeting reforms to more work-ready, non-exempt families is important. However, it is vital that changes are made to reflect the needs of all families.
  • Learn to Earn: there are diverse stakeholders in different fields who could inform, assess, and anticipate issues prior to changes being made; these stakeholders should be brought to the table early to take advantage of their expertise.
  • Reiterated support for the proposed asset limit increase to $5,000 (included in HWM) as a step in the right direction.



Join us for the next Community Meeting on May 9th, 11am to 1pm in the first floor conference room at 14 Beacon Street, Boston MA— we will be discussing gentrification/displacement in the context of stabilization for families leaving shelter.

January Community Meeting

Families, EA providers, and community members came together this month to talk about children’s issues:


One fifth of families who participated in the Family Survey had children with NO regular access to a primary care provider (PCP).

More than half of these children had no PCP at all.

Source: HFF Family Survey, see full report here

Maria Mossaides, the Child Advocate of Massachusettsshared what the quasi-public Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) does to serve children in the Commonwealth. She described some of the challenges that OCA faces in ensuring children receive all the services they need, as well as opportunities for better cross-agency collaboration.

Keith Chappelle, Policy Analyst from Children’s Health Watch (CHW), shared some of the research that CHW has done showing how homelessness affects young children.

Research shows homelessness is the “tip of the iceberg.” Food insecurity and energy insecurity often accompany housing insecurity—all of which seriously affect families and children. 

What issues for children experiencing homelessness stuck out to families and providers at the meeting?

  • Switching schools
  •  Immigration + TPS
  •  EA rules and regulations regarding parenting
  •  No services, lack of supports while in transition
  •  Instability, different impacts by age / development
  •  Bureaucratic delays (i.e. for transportation)
  •  Play space limitations
  •  Responsibilities that are not age appropriate, secondary trauma
  •  Behavioral / mental health counseling, for children and family as a group
  •  Healthcare, especially consistency of services; immunizations, primary care
  •  Undocumented immigrants not qualifying for daycare vouchers
  •  Policies requiring job / employment prior to qualifying for daycare vouchers
  •  Inconsistency across systems and regions for head start / early education
  •  Understanding availability / accessibility of resources
  •  Emotional / psychological well-being
  •  Lack of services for pre-teens & teens

How can cross-agency collaboration on children’s health, services and education be improved? 







Reminder: there is no February Community Meeting—Cookie Day is Wednesday, Feb. 7th!

Join us for the next Community Meeting on March 14th, 11am to 1pm in the first floor conference room at 14 Beacon Street, Boston MA— all are welcome! 

Light and love from the Homes for Families, Consumer Advocacy Team

Families, providers, partners, and beloved members of the community… now more than ever,  you are in our hearts.

In these challenging times we may find it nearly impossible to feel hopeful or inspired.

We may doubt whether or not we belong, we may even wonder if there is still good in this world.

It is in these moments that we must remind each other; it is in these moments that we must be the good that we wish to see… and it is in these moments that we can find inspiration in our ability to be resilient, in our ability to lift others despite our feeling down and out, and in our ability to insist on joy and unity.

At our last monthly Consumer Advocacy Meeting (C.A.T. meeting) our family consumer advocates took time to send light, love and hope out to the larger community.

The messages in these photographs are of letters / messages of hope to :

  • Future Generations
  • Our Undocumented brothers and sisters  in the community
  • The world / global community
  • Anyone who is wondering if there is hope for us


This isn’t the first time we will be faced with struggle and it’s so important to understand that good things have come of past struggles… people have continued to smile, love one another and ultimately move humanity forward.  Let us be the world we want to see, let us lift each other, let us inspire each other.

If you can say or do something kind for someone else … it may be just what they need & it’s certainly what the world needs.

Light and love from the Homes for Families, Consumer Advocacy Team 


Standing With Hope & Denouncing Abuse #DVAM17

The members of our Consumer Advocacy Team consist of advocates and activists against violence.  The members of this group consist of survivors and allies; this group knows how damaging the impact of violence is on children, families, individuals and communities.  We also know that there is power in healing, there is resilience in the spirit, there is something of immense strength and courage to be said for each and every survivor.

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2017 – and every day of the year –  our Consumer Advocacy Team takes a stand against violence by denouncing abuse and the normalization of abusive behaviors and rhetoric while standing for safety, hope, and promise of a better tomorrow.

This is practiced by:

  • raising community consciousness about DV and how its impacts are wide spread and longstanding hurting not just the survivor but entire communities
  • creating spaces for safe, candid, often difficult conversations (sometimes sharing personal experiences) about safety, trade-offs , policies & practices that can help / hurt others on as they are faced with violence, abuse , unsafe circumstances or relationships

The Consumer Advocacy Team, worked together on this last poem as a group to share with others. In this poem, they share a message about what it means when we normalize abuse as well as what it means to find hope in each new day.

When you normalize abuse
You become an abuser and life is never the same again
But one soul can make a difference for another
Today is now and yesterday is a memory
Live for now and thrive to survive
Revive your soul daily,

Lean on the strength of the mountains

And the sureness of the sun
Meditate, breath, love, create

And make your new pathway to healing