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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: April 16, 2014 12:38 PM
From: Representative Justin J. Simmons
To: All House members
Subject: Early Intervention Services - Homeless Infants and Toddlers
On Friday, May 2, 2014, I plan to introduce legislation that will provide for homeless infants and toddlers to be eligible for early intervention services in Pennsylvania.

Each year, an estimated 6,000 Pennsylvania infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) are homeless. Some are in homeless shelters, some are in camp grounds or vehicles, some are in temporary housing, or they move from place to place where anyone will take in their parent. Most of these homeless infants and toddlers suffer the kinds of trauma and neglect that most of us will never experience. While these children are born into a situation that places them in a dangerous disadvantage at the get go, I plan to introduce legislation that will remove barriers to help the families of these children get the assistance and resources needed for a fighting chance.

My legislation would amend 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 the above categories, the parent must 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. These children then go unheard and unseen by professionals who can help to improve their current and future lives.

We all know that what happens in early childhood can ripple through a lifetime. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, trauma and poverty impact infants and toddlers in unique ways leading to low learning capacities, maladaptive behaviors, and lifelong physical and mental health problems. Because of these effects, many children will be enrolled in costly special education programs, poor school attendance or drop out, leading to potential dependency on government assistance. While there are many services for Pennsylvanians who find themselves homeless, homeless infants and toddlers have been overlooked. Helping these helpless babies is the right thing to do.

I hope you will consider supporting this legislation by signing on as a co-sponsor. If you have any questions, please contact my Harrisburg office at (717) 783-1673 or email at lnissly@pahousegop.com.

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Introduced as HB2204