One of the most important barriers to the educational success of children and youth is school mobility. School mobility has been shown to have a significant negative impact on children’s academic outcomes and educational success. Research studies document the relationship between frequent school changes and an increased risk of failing a grade in school.
Given that the average child requires four to six months to recover academically after each school change, it can be expected that children and youth who change schools multiple times will not only fail to recover, but will lose academic ground (Burley & Halpern, 2001). Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) is responding to this issue through Improving Financial Stability programs, in-house Stewardship programs and the management of targeted local programs supported by the Siemer Institute for Family Stability (SIFS).
Since 2009, Barbara and Al Siemer have invested close to a half billion dollars in our community, resulting in more than 1,500 family members avoiding a crisis. The primary goal of SIFS is to support families so their children may remain in their school of origin, giving them the best chance of academic success. The program targets neighborhoods and schools with high student mobility rates and creates long-lasting change by addressing and resolving issues that put families at risk of homelessness.
“We know that keeping families stable and in their homes has a large positive effect on helping their kids succeed in school. The family stability initiatives we have invested in are effective ways of addressing this crucial issue, and we are confident that the Institute can use the expertise and relationships of the United Way system to truly make this a national model.” – Barbara Siemer
A former educator, Barbara Siemer looked at ways that she and her family could help students in their home states of Ohio and Florida become more successful in school. They made the decision to fund programs through local United Ways in the two states and to empower the respective United Way staff to implement each program based on the community needs and identified issues. Heart of Florida United Way was one of 10 United Ways chosen to manage local programs aligned with the goals of the Siemers. Visit http://www.hfuw.org/IIR_IFS.php to see the list of SIFS supported programs in our area.
SIFS was established in 2011 and Rob Podlogar was hired as the National Director to begin moving the community impact achieved by the successful local initiatives to collective impact on a national level. The Institute is establishing a platform for preventing homelessness in areas across the country and has expanded to 35 communities.
In 2013, the Siemers were awarded the United Way Worldwide National Tocqueville Award for rendering outstanding service within their communities and beyond. SIFS has created an environment for best-practice sharing, cross-community conversations and the collection/assessment of data that will lead to a better understanding of the issue of homelessness and its impact on children.
For more information about SIFS, see http://familystability.org/.
Submitted by Regina Clifton, Director of Grants Administration, Heart of Florida United Way