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Overview of the McKinney-Vento
Homeless Assistance Act
“…Through it all, school is probably the only thing that has kept
me going. I know that every day that I walk in those doors, I can
stop thinking about my problems for the next six hours and
concentrate on what is most important to me. Without the support
of my school system, I would not be as well off as I am today.
School keeps me motivated to move on, and encourages me to
find a better life for myself.”
Carrie, 2002 LeTendre Scholar
How many children and youth
experience homelessness?
• 10% of all children living in poverty over the
course of a year
• 7% of all fifth graders have lived in a shelter or
car (11% for low-income and African American)
• 1.6-1.7 million youth run away each year
• Over 40% of all children who are homeless are
under the age of 5
• Nationwide, 794,617 homeless students enrolled
in public schools in the 2007-08 school year 17% increase over previous year
• 11,783 enrolled in schools in PA 2007-08
(includes preschool children)
Causes of Homelessness
Lack of affordable housing
Health problems
Domestic violence
Natural and other disasters
Abuse/neglect (unaccompanied youth)
Barriers to Education for
Homeless Children and Youth
• Enrollment requirements (school records, health
records, proof of residence and guardianship)
• High mobility resulting in lack of school stability
and educational continuity
• Lack of access to programs
• Lack of transportation
• Lack of school supplies, clothing, etc.
• Poor health, fatigue, hunger
• Prejudice and misunderstanding
Homeless Assistance Act
• Reauthorized 2002 by NCLB
• Main themes:
• School stability
• School access
• Support for academic success
• Child-centered, best interest decision making
Eligibility—Who is Covered?
• Children who lack a fixed, regular, and
adequate nighttime residence—
• Sharing the housing of others due to loss of
housing, economic hardship, or similar reason
[39% of identified students in PA; 65% nationally]
• Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping
grounds due to lack of adequate alternative
[Motels: 53% of identified students in PA; 7% nationally]
• Living in emergency or transitional shelters
[53% of identified students in PA; 5% nationally]
Who is Covered? (cont.)
• Awaiting foster care placement
• Living in a public or private place not designed
for humans to live
• Living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings,
substandard housing, bus or train stations, or
similar settings
• Migratory children living in above circumstances
Awaiting Foster Care Placement
PDE Board of Education Circular; Awaiting Foster Care
Placement includes:
•those who live in shelters or are placed in emergency,
interim or respite foster care;kinship care; evaluation or
diagnostic centers or placements for the sole purpose of
•Local school officials should consult with their county
children and youth agencies whenever necessary to
determine if a child meets the definition of awaiting foster
care placement, including, on a case-by-case basis,
whether a child who does not clearly fall into one of these
categories is nevertheless a child awaiting foster care
McKinney-Vento Definition:
Why So Broad?
- Shelters are often full; shelters may turn families
and youth away, or put them on waiting lists
- Shelters do not exist in many suburban and rural
- Eligibility conditions of shelters often exclude
families with boys over the age of 12, or
unaccompanied minors
- Motels may not be available, or may be too
- Youth on their own may fear adult shelters
- Shelters often have 30, 60, or 90 day time limits
- Families/youth may be unaware of alternatives,
fleeing in crisis, living in over-crowded,
temporary, and sometimes unsafe environments
Determining Eligibility
• Case-by-case determination
• Get as much information as possible (without
intimidating the parent or youth)
• Look at the MV definition (specific examples in
the definition first, then overall definition)
NCHE’s Determining Eligibility brief is available at
Local Homeless
Education Liaisons
• Every LEA must designate a liaison for students
in homeless situations.
• Responsibilities• Ensure that children and youth in homeless
situations are identified
• Ensure that homeless students enroll in and
have full and equal opportunity to succeed in
• Link with educational services, including
preschool and health services
• Resolve disputes and assist with
Identification Strategies
• Provide awareness activities for school staff
(registrars, secretaries, counselors, nurses,
teachers, tutors, drop out prevention specialists,
administrators, etc.).
• Coordinate with community service agencies,
such as shelters, soup kitchens, public
assistance and housing agencies, and public
health departments.
• Provide outreach materials and posters where
there is a frequent influx of low-income families
and youth in high-risk situations, including
motels, campgrounds, libraries, youth centers.
Identification Strategies (cont.)
• Make special efforts to identify preschool
children, including asking about the siblings of
school-aged children.
• Develop relationships with truancy officials
and/or other attendance officers.
• Use enrollment and withdrawal forms to inquire
about living situations.
• Enlist youth to spread the word.
• Avoid using the word "homeless" in initial
contacts with school personnel, families, or
School Stability—
Key Provisions
• Students can stay in their school of origin for the
duration of homeless and until the end of the
school year when they find permanent housing,
as long as that is in their best interest.
• School of origin—school attended when
permanently housed or in which last enrolled.
• Best interest—keep homeless students in their
schools of origin, to the extent “feasible”, unless
this is against the parents’ or guardians’ wishes.
• Can always also choose the local school (any
school others living in the same area are eligible
to attend).
USDE Sample Criteria
A child-centered, individualized determination
Continuity of instruction
Age of the child or youth
Safety of the child or youth
Likely length of stay in temporary housing
Likely area where family will find permanent
Student’s need for special instructional
Impact of commute on education
School placement of siblings
Time remaining in the school year
Research on School Mobility
• Students who switch schools frequently score
lower on standardized tests; study found mobile
students scored 20 points lower than non-mobile
• Demonstration project in WA showed that school
stability for homeless students increases
assessment scores and grades.
• Mobility also hurts non-mobile students; study
found average test scores for non-mobile
students were significantly lower in high schools
with high student mobility rates.
Research on
School Mobility (cont.)
• Students suffer psychologically, socially, and
academically from mobility; mobile students are
less likely to participate in extracurricular
activities and more likely to act out or get into
• Mobility during high school greatly diminishes
the likelihood of graduation; study found
students who changed high schools even once
were less than half as likely as stable students to
graduate, even controlling for other factors.
• It takes children an average of 4-6 months to
recover academically after changing schools.
Research on
Mobility (cont.)
Recent study published in the Archives of Psychiatry found
that kids aged 11 to 17 were twice as likely to attempt
suicide if their families moved three or more times
compared to those who had never moved.
If the family moved more than 10 times, the children were
four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to those
who had never moved.
Transportation—Key Provisions
• LEAs must provide transportation to and from their
school of origin, at a parent’s or guardian’s request
(or at the liaison’s request for unaccompanied
• If crossing LEA lines, they must determine how to
divide the responsibility and share the cost, or they
must share the cost equally.
Transportation—Key Provisions
• LEAs also must provide students in homeless
situations with transportation services comparable to
those provided to other students.
• LEAs must eliminate barriers to the school
enrollment and retention of students experiencing
homelessness (including transportation barriers).
Transportation Strategies
• Develop close ties among local liaisons, school
staff, pupil transportation staff, and shelter
• Use school buses (including special education,
magnet school and other buses).
• Develop formal or informal agreements with
school districts where homeless children cross
district lines.
• Use public transit where feasible.
• Use approved carpools, van or taxi services.
• Reimburse parents and youth for gas.
Enrollment—Key Provisions
• If remaining in the school of origin is not feasible,
children and youth in homeless situations are
entitled to immediate enrollment in any public
school that students living in the same
attendance area are eligible to attend.
• The terms “enroll” and “enrollment” include
attending classes and participating fully in
school activities.
Key Provisions (cont.)
• Enrollment must be immediate, even if students
do not have required documents, such as school
records, health records, proof of residency or
guardianship, or other documents.
• If a student does not have immunizations, or
immunization or medical records, the liaison
must immediately assist in obtaining them, and
the student must be enrolled in the interim.
Key Provisions (cont.)
• Enrolling schools must obtain school records
from the previous school, and students must be
enrolled in school while records are obtained.
• Schools must maintain records for students who
are homeless so they are available quickly.
• SEAs and LEAs must develop, review, and
revise policies to remove barriers to the
enrollment and retention of children and youth in
homeless situations.
Immediate Enrollment—
• Request all records from the previous school
immediately, including immunization records.
• Parental signature is not required for transfer students
• The vast majority of students have been enrolled in school
before and have received immunizations.
• Speak with parents and youth about the classes the
student was in, previous coursework, and special needs.
• Call the counselor, teachers or principal at the previous
school for information.
• Use the NCHE brief “Prompt and Proper Placement.”
Resolution of Disputes—
Key Provisions
• Every state must establish dispute resolution
• When a dispute over enrollment arises, the student
must be admitted immediately to the school of
choice while the dispute is being resolved.
• The parent or guardian must be provided with a
written explanation of the school’s decision,
including the right to appeal.
• The school must refer the child, youth, parent, or
guardian to the liaison to carry out the dispute
resolution process as expeditiously as possible.
Unaccompanied Youth-Who Are They?
• Definition: child or youth who meets the
definition of homeless and is not in the physical
custody of a parent or guardian.
• Studies have found that 20 to 50 percent of
unaccompanied youth were sexually abused in
their homes, while 40 to 60 percent were
physically abused.
• Over two-thirds of callers to Runaway Hotline
report that at least one of their parents abuses
drugs or alcohol.
Unaccompanied Youth-Who Are They? (cont.)
• 20-40% of homeless youth identify as gay,
lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (compared to
3-5% of the overall population).
• At the end of 2005, over 11,000 children fled a
foster care placement and were never found; 2540% of youth who emancipate from foster care
will end up homeless.
Unaccompanied Youth—
Key Provisions
• Liaisons must help unaccompanied youth
choose and enroll in a school, after
considering the youth’s wishes, and inform
the youth of his or her appeal rights
• School personnel must be made aware of
the specific needs of runaway and
homeless youth.
Unaccompanied Youth—
• Develop clear policies for enrolling unaccompanied
youth immediately, whether youth enroll themselves,
liaisons do enrollment, caretakers enroll youth in
their care, or another procedure is in place.
• Train local liaisons and all school enrollment staff,
secretaries, counselors, principals, security staff,
attendance officers, and teachers on the definition,
rights, and needs of unaccompanied youth.
• Coordinate with youth-serving agencies, such as
shelters, soup kitchens, drop-in centers, street
outreach, child welfare, juvenile courts, law
enforcement, legal aid, teen parent programs, public
assistance, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender youth
organizations, mental health agencies…
Unaccompanied Youth—
Strategies (cont.)
• Offer youth an adult and peer mentor.
• Establish systems to monitor youth’s
attendance and performance, and let
youth know you’ll be checking up on them.
• Help youth participate fully in school
(clubs, sports, homework help, etc.)
• Build trust! Be patient, and ensure
discretion and confidentiality when working
with youth.
Access to Services
• Students who experience homelessness must
have access to educational services for which
they are eligible, including special education,
programs for English learners, gifted and
talented programs, voc./tech. programs, and
school nutrition programs.
• Undocumented children and youth have the
same right to attend public school as U.S.
citizens and are covered by the McKinney-Vento
Act to the same extent as other children and
youth (Plyler v. Doe).
Young Children and
• Compared to the non-homeless children served by Head
Start, children experiencing homelessness were reported
• Have greater developmental delays,
• To be more likely to have learning disabilities and developmental
delays, and
• To exhibit a higher frequency of socio-emotional problems.
• Only 15% of homeless preschool children are enrolled in
preschool programs
Preschool-Aged Children
• Liaisons must ensure that families and children have access to
Head Start, Even Start, and other public preschool programs
administered by the LEA
• State plans must describe procedures that ensure that homeless
children have access to public preschool programs
• Homeless children are categorically eligible for Head Start programs
• Head Start programs are required to identify and prioritize homeless
children for enrollment; allow homeless children to enroll while
required paperwork is obtained; and coordinate with LEA liaisons
• OHS Information:
Strategies for Accessing
Public Preschool
•Identify the existing public school programs within your district,
i.e. classrooms for 3, 4 and 5 year olds, Special education
programs, other federally funded projects and community/district
•Advocate for slots for homeless children within existing public
school programs
•Connect with public school key early childhood and elementary
staff to build relationships, share data, create awareness and
understanding of the impact of homelessness on young children
for future partnerships
Strategies for Accessing
Public Preschool
•Include homelessness in the list of criteria for
priority enrollment, classify homelessness as an
“at risk” factor, and/or include homelessness
specifically as a criterion for "most in need.”
•Set up meetings with community service agencies
to begin to develop a relationship on issues such
as available preschool programs in the community,
recruiting families experiencing homelessness into
preschool programs, the enrollment process,
transportation, and other services.
Access to Services (cont.)
• Homeless students are automatically eligible for
free school meals.
• USDA policy permits liaisons and shelter
directors to obtain free school meals for students
immediately by providing a list of names of
students experiencing homelessness with
effective dates.
• The 2004 reauthorization of IDEA includes
amendments that reinforce timely assessment,
inclusion, and continuity of services for
homeless children and youth who have
Access to Services (cont.)
• Unaccompanied youth applying for federal
financial aid are automatically considered
“independent students”.
• A liaison, shelter director or financial aid
administrator must verify their status.
• Youth who are homeless, unaccompanied
youth OR self-supporting and at-risk of
homelessness can qualify.
Title I and Homelessness—
Key Provisions
• A child or youth who is homeless is
automatically eligible for Title IA services,
regardless of whether his or her school is a Title
IA school.
• LEAs must reserve (or set aside) the funds
necessary to serve homeless children who do
not attend Title IA schools, including
educationally related support services; funds
may be used for children attending any school in
the LEA.
Strategies for Determining the
Title I Set-Aside Amount
• Review needs and costs involved in serving
homeless students in the current year and
project for the following year
• Multiply the number of homeless students by the
Title IA per pupil allocation
• For districts with subgrants, reserve an amount
greater than or equal to the McKinney-Vento
subgrant funding request
• Reserve a percentage based on the district’s
poverty level or total Title IA allocation
New Title I Part A Guidance
• New guidance issued as part of ARRA guidance on
September 4, 2009
• Homeless children eligible for Title I regardless of
which school they attend
•To the extent that Title I Part A services increase
because of ARRA, the obligation increases to
provide services for homeless students in nonparticipating schools
• Title I funds may be used for services not ordinarily
provided to other Title I services
Examples of Title I Services:
•Items of clothing, particularly if necessary to meet a school’s
dress or uniform requirement
• Clothing and shoes necessary to participate in physical
education classes
• Student fees that are necessary to participate in the general
education program
• Personal school supplies such as backpacks and notebooks
• Birth certificates necessary to enroll in school
• Immunizations
• Food
• Medical and dental services
• Eyeglasses and hearing aids
Examples of Title I Services:
•Counseling services
• Outreach services
• Extended learning time
• Tutoring services
• Parental involvement
• Fees for AP and IB testing
• Fees for SAT/ACT testing
• GED testing for school-age students
Principles Guiding the Use Title I
Services for Homeless Students:
•Services must be reasonable and necessary to enable
homeless students to take advantage of educational
•Fund must be used as a last resource when funds or
services are not reasonably available from other public or
private sources
•An individual paid, in whole or in part, with Title I, Part A
funds, including Title I, Part A ARRA funds, may also
serve as a homeless liaison.
Why It Matters
“Through our conversations I discovered her to
be a mature young woman with much
responsibility on her shoulders. Through the
outstanding work she completed in my class, I
also discovered her capability to rise above the
difficulties she faced in her personal life and
excel at school.”
LeTendre Scholarship recommendation letter for Michelle,
2006 LeTendre Scholar,
from her Economics teacher
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
National Center on Homeless Education
National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
National Network for Youth
OSPI McKinney-Vento information

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