Improving School Attendance with the Health and Well-Being Monitor

ISA Uses the Health and Well-Being Monitor to Help Families Focus on What's Most Important to Them

the backs of students heads as they sit in a classroom

Lost in the news cycle of the homeless epidemic is the effects that it has on children. On children, the effects of homelessness can be crippling and life altering. If left unaddressed, the child’s circumstances can turn into a vicious, hard-to-break cycle that will follow them through life. 

When families are on the outside of a stable home environment, their community ties and social structures rapidly crumble. When the basic needs of the family aren’t met, school is far from their first priority. What many take for granted daily can become insurmountable barriers for these families: transportation, food, childcare.

Without adequate transportation, the child has no way of getting to school and the parent has no means for acquiring gainful employment. Without access to nutritious food, the child’s physical condition deteriorates and they find themselves in poor health. Poor physical health leads to poor mental and emotional health. When living in constant crisis, it can have a detrimental effect on a child’s frontal lobe.

Improving School Attendance (ISA) works in partnership with Housing Hope to support children and families experiencing homelessness. ISA relies on the Health and Well-Being Monitor to identify the needs of local families. “Often, families do not communicate all of their needs,” said Monica Best-Wilson, a school psychologist and program coordinator with ISA, “they’ll tell you one or two, but the Health and Well-being Monitor help us to see the big picture – things they may not have even considered — like relationships and access to healthy food” 

After walking families through the monitor, ISA formulates a plan that helps families on their journey to self-sufficiency. “It has developed into one of the most important tools in our arsenal.” Best-Wilson continued, “we re-administer it to our families every 6 months to see what has improved and where our focus needs to shift.”

“It has developed into one of the most important tools in our arsenal.” Best-Wilson continued, “we re-administer it to our families every 6 months to see what has improved and where our focus needs to shift.”

“We’ve found that when reaching out to families in need, sharing their stories with yet another person re-opens the vein of trauma. By the time we get involved, the family has connected with other family members, advocates and social workers. To them, we are just another face,” she said. “We strive to end the stigma that ‘no one cares’ by showing the families that we operate with a long-term outlook. We are thinking about more than their next meal. In fact, our timelines run 3-5 years down the road, when the changes really start bearing fruit. Our maximum caseload is 6 families at any given time so that we can focus on making lasting changes.” 

The ultimate goal at ISA is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness and get children back into school where they have access to education, social mentors, and healthy nutrition. Keeping children engaged in their education helps to instill a life-long confidence. In order to disrupt the cycle, we help repair relationships on all levels. This can be in between the parent and child, school and child, and the parent and school.

If you can reduce an absence into a tardy, then you can eventually turn tardies into full days of school.”

Stabilizing the health of the home and the family is paramount to tackling the homelessness epidemic in our communities. By helping each individual child, ISA helps to improve the health of the community as a whole. “It takes small and sustainable steps to provide the best path towards improving school attendance. If you can reduce an absence into a tardy, then you can eventually turn tardies into full days of school.”

May Featured Resources

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and stroke Awareness Month here are some local Mental Health and Stroke Support Resources you can find on Livewelllocal.org and on our Facebook page.

ImHurting Crisis Chat

ImHurting Crisis Chat is a service offered through Volunteers of America Western Washington in the North Puget Sound region. Their mission is to help people by providing online emotional support during times of crisis. Everyone is welcome to talk about what’s causing them to feel pain. Crisis Counselors will listen to you without judgment, and help you feel cared about and safe. You can expect the Crisis Counselor to help you explore your feelings, come up with some coping strategies, and focus on your personal safety. This is a safe place to talk about what’s troubling you – including suicide. 

Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour program that helps the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. It is a public education and prevention tool that connects people with care for and improves knowledge of mental health problems. Mental Health First Aid USA is taught by certified instructors. Classes are taught at the Compass Health Federal Avenue Campus in Everett open to the community, by contract and by contract at your site. Class size is 12 to 30 participants. 

The Stroke Support Group

The Stroke Support Group is specifically designed to offer you and your caregivers, family and friends the opportunity to talk with other stroke survivors and learn how to make the most life after stroke. We know you have many questions. This group is led by fellow stroke survivors who offer insights into what they have learned and helpful tips they have gained, all in an open and friendly environment. The Stroke Support Group meets on the 2nd Friday of every month at the Medical Office Building adjacent to the Hospital in the St. Helens Room. For questions, please contact Lisa Shumaker at 425-404-6842.

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