The Independence School District Family Services department is designed to help every family with both “well-family” developmental needs and any services needed to assist when challenging circumstances arise.
Whether getting ready to enter Kindergarten, making friends and making good choices as they enter Middle School, or “launching” at the end of High School, students have particular developmental needs and families face predictable challenges. Special circumstances can make things harder for a student and for parents. Support, information, and access to resources are key to the success of each family in our community.
The Family Services Department currently consists of four major service areas: social services, Caring Communities, homeless programs, and truancy.
Initiatives include the Van Iten Caring for Kids Project, Teen Parenting Support Program, COMBAT truancy intervention, Missouri school health, site councils (Community School Model), and family support services in the areas of health, mental health and crisis intervention.
The neighborhood school is one place that every family can find what is needed to help children at each stage in life.
Family School Liaisons
Family School Liaisons (FSLs) are key support staff in every school. FSLs work cooperatively with students, adult family members, school staff and community partners to remove barriers that prevent students from learning. They provide resource information and referrals for families who have specific needs such as health care, emergency assistance, or counseling. They use a strengths-based, holistic service approach that engages families as partners in the process of helping their student succeed. In addition to addressing specific concerns, FSLs offer preventive, proactive services to families centered on developmental information, family life cycle information, and topics such as safety, physical and mental health, and family fun.
Teen Parenting Support
The Independence School District offers support and information to teenage students who are pregnant or parenting. Case management, community resources, and ongoing support help teens cope with the many challenges and stresses of parenting. Key aspects of the program help teens remain in school and progress toward graduation. The program is located at Truman High School and is open to students throughout the school district.
Caring for Kids
For years, communities have ceded responsibility of child maltreatment to state agencies, police departments, and county courts. And despite all of their efforts, the numbers of children being abused or neglected continue to rise at significant rates. This initiative changes the paradigm of who bears responsibility for protecting children. Former School Board member Al Van Iten stated, “We have been given the charge to be good stewards of our nation’s greatest resource—our children. It is time for school boards across the nation to step up to the plate and hit a “homerun” for all kids, by joining the fight against child abuse.”
Find out more information about the Children’s Trust Fund-Missouri’s Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention.
Most importantly, the community of Independence provides the will and moral imperative to take action in this area. The Independence Board of Education and district staff have provided leadership in this area and have found the Missouri Children’s Division, the city of Independence, the Local Investment Commission, and local faith groups willing and focused on the shared vision to eradicate child abuse and neglect in this community through the Van Iten Caring for Kids Project.
Student learning can be accomplished when parents, community members, businesses, and other organizations are unambiguous about their responsibility to “step up to the plate.” Reaching out to parents as partners recognizes the need to engage the whole family to find solutions that affect both the health and well-being of families while significantly impacting the learning conditions of every child. The Van Iten Caring for Kids Project was established in 2004 in honor of Al and Dottye Van Iten.
Service for Homeless Students
A homeless student is one who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. This includes students who are staying in transitional or emergency shelters, campgrounds, motels, sharing housing with other families due to a loss of housing or an inability to afford housing, awaiting foster care, abandoned in a hospital, staying in a substandard housing or living in places not ordinarily used for sleeping and students who have run away or have been thrown out of their homes. A homeless student may stay in the same school all year, if feasible, even is he/she moves, or may enroll in the school serving his/her temporary address.
Homeless students are automatically eligible to participate in the school meals program, instructional services through Title I, and other district services intended to support academic success such as tutoring and transportation to the school if best interest. Please contact the school principal, family school liaison, or Homeless Services office (816) 521-5300 for further information.
Main Program Office
Board of Education Building
201 N. Forest Ave Independence, MO 64050
(816) 521-5300 (816) 521-5664 (fax)
Schedule: Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
McKinney-Vento Liaison: Nicole Sequeira (816) 521-5346 email@example.com
Homeless Case Manager: Angie Schnetzer (816) 213-3233 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Identify and meet the needs of students in homeless situations to maximize their success in school and minimized disruption of their education.
- Provide support and resources, including transportation, to maintain consistency and continuity in the educational process for students in homeless circumstances.
- Provide full access to educational programs and opportunities for homeless students that housed students receive.
- Engage parents and other adult caretakers in the supporting the educational success of students in homeless situations.
- Coordinate services and supports for homeless students with community agencies and neighboring school districts.
Program Services Include
Services and supports are available to students and their families so that every child achieves to his or her potential!
- Immediate enrollment in school and removal of barriers to enrollment and participation – for example, obtaining replacement birth certificates and immunization records.
- Transportation to and from school, and for extra-curricular activities when feasible. Transportation is also available for families to attend conferences and school events.
- School supplies, backpacks, school clothes and other daily living and enrichment items.
- Funds to replace library and text books lost due to homelessness and to purchase books for homeless students to own.
- Activity and field trip fees.
- Tutoring to help students catch up and stay current.
- Limited scholarships for Kids Safari and Early Education programs.
- Case management, support services, and on-site mental health counseling.
Who can we help?
Children and youth in temporary housing situations may be eligible for services and have certain legal rights if they are:
- living with a friend, relative or someone else because they lost their home or can’t afford a home, or are runaways;*
- staying in a motel or hotel;*
- living in an emergency or transitional shelter or a domestic violence shelter;
staying in substandard housing;*
- living in a car, park, public place, abandoned building or bus or train station;
- awaiting foster care placement;
- living in a campground or an inadequate trailer home;
- abandoned in a hospital;
- living in a runaway or homeless youth shelter.
Note: * Consideration of each individual case, along with the permanency of the situation, may be needed to determine if students in these circumstances are homeless.
A True Homeless Experience – Homeless Services Coalition of Greater KC
A 17-year-old female is living in a homeless shelter with her two children who are thirteen months old and three months old. She is living in a homeless shelter due to the father of the two children being incarcerated and leaving her with nothing. She has a criminal history; therefore, she is unable to receive state and/or federal aid to help with her and her children’s situation. This young mother has no where to go and no one to turn to in her time of need. She has no other option than to raise her children in a shelter. Even though her criminal history is minor, she has no way of paying this debt. It is difficult for her to hold a job due to her children and not being able to afford adequate daycare services. She is trapped in a cycle with no end in sight.
A mother and her two children were homeless–living in a stolen car under a bridge in the middle of the winter. She had fled from a domestic violence situation and had to steal a car to flee from her abuser. She took her five-year-old child and three-month-old baby with her so that they would not be left behind with her abuser. She was unable to find a job; therefore, she felt that her only other option was prostitution. She had to make money somehow in order to buy gas to keep the car running to provide heat for her and her children. She had a criminal background; therefore, she was unable to receive state and/or federal aid to help her start a new life with her children away from domestic violence.
A mother and her four children with one on the way were living from shelter to shelter or with friends for short periods of time. They did not have a permanent residence due to the mother’s history of criminal activity; therefore, the mother was not eligible to receive state and/or federal aid to help her get back on her feet and out of her homeless situation. Due to the fact that this family was homeless and was living from place to place, the mother ended up giving birth to her baby in a hotel bathtub. Her eight-year-old daughter delivered the baby. The mother chose not to go to the hospital to deliver the baby in fear that hospital employees would call the Division of Family Services and that DFS would take her children away from her.
How can community members help?
The Independence School District established a Homeless Benevolence Fund in 2005 to help with “quality of life” needs such as those listed below. Since then the Fund has received many generous donations from individuals and organizations like the Woman’s Civic Club of Independence, MO.
The Woman’s Civic Club has also generously provided handmade tote bags with hygiene kits for students to start the school year!
When no other resources can be found to meet the need, Benevolence Fund charitable donations are used for things like:
- Cap & Gown Expenses
- School pictures
- Recreational field trips
- Prom/Homecoming outfits
- Emergency assistance
Charitable contributions may be made to the “Independence School District” with “Homeless Benevolence Fund” in the memo line. Please contact Macha Greenleaf-Maple at 521-5300 ext.10036 for additional information.
Other ways you can help?
- Participate in back-to-school efforts and holiday giving.
- Contact the principal or family school liaison at your neighborhood school.
- Partner with community organizations to serve homeless families.
- Advocate for affordable housing in our community.
- Contact the district at 521-5300 for ideas!
- Spread the word about educational rights for homeless students!
Homeless Hotline – 816-474-4599 & 816-842-1199
Available emergency shelter space across the Metro.
Hope House Domestic Violence Shelter and Services – 816-461-4188
Hillcrest Transitional Housing – 816-461-0470
Community Services League – 816-254-4100
Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter – 816-461-1093
Emergency shelter and support services (shower, evening meal, mail)
Lunch Partners, Center Branch Remnant Church, 709 W. Maple, Independence, MO; 816-254-6040
Free, hot lunches available for the hungry, Monday – Friday 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM. No questions asked.
Food truck every Wednesday at 10:00 AM – get in line starting at 7:00 AM at the old Furr’s Cafeteria parking lot and get a number. No questions asked.
United Services Community Action Agency – 816-833-4333
Homeless Case Management
American Red Cross – 816-931-8400
Assistance for families who have experienced a natural disaster or house/apartment fire.
Division of Family Services – 816-325-5800
Food Stamps, Medicaid
Area School District Homeless Coordinators
Legal Rights and Advocacy
Missouri’s List of Frequently Asked Questions
Housing Services Coalition of Greater Kansas City
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Facts About Serving Homeless Children
National Center for Homeless Education
The Center provides research, resources, and information enabling communities to address the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), a national grassroots membership association, serves as the voice and the social conscience for the education of children and youth in homeless situations. NAEHCY connects educators, parents, advocates, researchers, and service providers to ensure school enrollment and attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent, and adequate housing. NAEHCY accomplishes these goals through advocacy, partnerships, and education.
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
Issues briefs and advocacy related to homelessness.