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Boys Town Helps Washington, D.C. in Fight Against Truancy

Boys Town has joined with the District of Columbia Justice Grants Association (JGA) and a number of organizations in Washington, D.C. to lower the number of truant elementary school students in the area.

In late September 2012, JGA sent out a request for grant applications with a goal of financially aiding organizations assisting truant youth ages 5-8. Seven grants were awarded, and after a successful first year, Boys Town received an extension for the 2013-2014 school year.

In-Home Family Services ® (IHFS) Supervisor, Harold Morgan, IHFS Consultant, Daniel Alston and IHFS Travis Loggins Santiago are the three Boys Town employees primarily involved with this project. Seven schools in the D.C. area refer youth to Boys Town after they accumulate five absences. From there, the families receive assistance through the IHFS program.

Morgan, Alston and Loggins Santiago work with the families to discover why the child is missing school and provide resources to bring about change in school attendance habits. “We try to come in and figure out what the barriers are   big or small,” said Morgan.

Barriers leading to truancy can be anything from a family not having transportation, to parents not knowing how to communicate with the school. Morgan says he has heard some say that a child doesn’t have a clean coat, so that means no school for the day.

“Missing school means missing out on key learning opportunities and they [the youth] can fall behind,” said Morgan. “Plus, for some, school is a safe haven from home or it keeps them off the streets doing things they shouldn’t.”

Solutions provided range from covering metro fare, to school uniforms, to a method to wash clothes. If a child has to miss school for an illness, IHFS teaches parents to communicate the reason, so students’ attendance records don’t suffer.

The current contract is set to run through August of 2014, lasting through the school district’s summer programs. “Boys Town Washington, D.C. hopes to have a role in this partnership as long as JGA and D.C. Public Schools need to address the issues of truancy in youth,” said Morgan. “The goal of JGA and Boys Town is the same, both agencies want to ensure the safety and well-being of youth and families. This grant helps us serve a population that needs to be served in our community, as well as get the name of Boys Town out there.”