Education for Homeless Children & Youth
The term homeless children and youth means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:
- Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
- Children who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters, or awaiting foster care placement
- Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
- Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above
- Unaccompanied youth not in the presence of parent or guardian
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act) (42 U.S.C. § 11431-11435) is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youths experiencing homelessness. It requires all local educational agencies to ensure that homeless students have access to the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschools, as provided to other children and youths. The McKinney-Vento Act defines LEAs as public school districts, direct-funded and locally funded charter schools, and county offices of education. The McKinney-Vento Act also authorizes the funding for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program.
Dispute Resolution Process
- Below are five components for resolving disputes regarding school selection and enrollment for homeless children and youth:
- If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the child/youth must be immediately enrolled in the school in which he/she is seeking enrollment, pending resolution of the dispute [PL 107-110, Section 722(g)(3)(E)(iv)]. Enrollment is defined as "attending classes and participating fully in school activities."
- The school must refer the student, parent, or guardian to the LEA's homeless liaison to carry out the dispute resolution process as expeditiously as possible. The homeless liaison must ensure that the dispute resolution process is also followed for unaccompanied youth.
- A written explanation of the school's decision regarding school selection or enrollment must be provided if a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth disputes such a school selection or enrollment decision, including the right to appeal [PL 107-110, §722(g)(3)(E)(ii)]. The written explanation shall be complete, as brief as possible, simply stated, and provided in a language that the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth can understand.
- If the dispute remains unresolved at the district level or is appealed, then the district homeless liaison shall forward all written documentation and related paperwork to the homeless liaison at the county office of education (COE). The COE's homeless liaison will review these materials and determine the school selection or enrollment decision within five (5) working days of receipt of the materials. The COE homeless liaison will notify the LEA and parent of the decision. Please see the contact information for COE's homeless liaisons.
- If the dispute remains unresolved or is appealed, the COE homeless liaison shall forward all written documentation and related paperwork to the State Homeless Coordinator. Upon the review of the LEA, COE, and parent information, the CDE will notify the parent of the final school selection or enrollment decision within ten (10) working days of receipt of materials. You may reach the State Homeless Coordinator, Leanne Wheeler, by phone at 916-319-0383 or by e-mail.
- California Department of Education's Recommendations LEAs working with parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth should:
- Inform parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth that they can provide written or oral documentation to support their positions about school selection or enrollment.
- Inform parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth that they can seek the assistance of social services, advocates, and/or service providers in the dispute process.
- Provide a simple dispute form that parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth can complete and turn in to the school to initiate the dispute resolution process.
- Provide a copy to the parents, guardians, or youth for their records when the dispute form is submitted to the school.
- Provide a copy to the parents, guardians, or youth for their records of the outcome of the dispute, even when the dispute is immediately resolved satisfactorily without a dispute hearing.
If you have further questions, please contact Leanne Wheeler, Consultant and State Homeless Coordinator, Coordinated School Health and Safety Office, at 916-319-0383 or by e-mail.
- Train all school enrollment staff, secretaries, school counselors, school social workers, and principals on the legal requirements for enrollment.
- Review LEA policies and revise them as necessary.
- Develop alternative caretaker forms, enrollment forms for unaccompanied youth, and other forms to replace typical proof of guardianship, ensuring they do not create further barriers or delay enrollment.
- Accept school records directly from families and youth.
- Establish immunization databases, school-based immunization clinics, or mobile heath units.
- Be sensitive about smoothly integrating new students into the classroom and school community.
The following sample documents are on the California Department of Education(CDE) Homeless Children and Youth Education site and are all in WORD format:
It is recommended that you review the Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit with your legal representative prior to use. This form is to protect the district when the bio parent is not available. This allow you to use the caregiver during parental absence.
Declaration For Missing Enrollment Documentation Form
Student Residency Questionnaire/Affidavit
Student Services Questionnaire
Shared Residence Affidavit
"You Can Enroll in School" Poster English
"You Can Enroll in School" Poster
- Coordinate with local housing authorities and placement agencies to house students near their school of origin.
- Re-route school buses (including special education, magnet school and other buses), and ensure that buses travel to shelters, transitional living programs, and motels where homeless students reside.
- Develop close ties among local educational agency (LEA) homeless liaisons, school staff and pupil transportation staff, and designate a district-level point of contact to arrange and coordinate transportation.
- Provide passes for public transportation, including passes for caretakers and older siblings when necessary.
- Take advantage of transportation systems used by public assistance agencies.
- Reimburse parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth for gas.
- Use approved van or taxi services.
- Use local funds for transportation.
- Purchase gas vouchers to assist parents, but verify school attendance.
- Use early and late school buses for access to extra curricular activities.
- Collect and utilize community and faith-based donations for transportation costs.
- Contact public transportation to offer bus tokens and passes at discounted rates for homeless students and families.
- Collaborate with other LEAs to discuss transportation issues and solutions.
- Use vans from other agencies (including Boys and Girls Club, faith-based organizations, and shelters).
- Include transportation in board policies and LEA Plan.
- Allow the transportation department to be part of the solution.
- Establish a formula or other method to allocate Title I set-asides for homeless children and youth.
- Use Title I funds (including set-aside funds) to support the LEA homeless liaison position and to meet basic needs of students experiencing homelessness (clothing, supplies, health).
- Use Title I funds to provide tutoring and/or outreach services to children and youth living in shelters, transitional living programs, motels, and other temporary residencies.
- Pool Title I and McKinney-Vento funds to provide a comprehensive program for homeless students, ensuring that specific needs of children experiencing homelessness or high mobility are met.
- Ensure that the needs of children experiencing homelessness are taken into account in the needs assessments that are required for schoolwide programs.
- Make appropriate testing accommodations for children who are homeless; for example, having opportunities to make up tests if children are absent on testing day.
- Ensure that local liaisons are trained to collect achievement data for all homeless students and that district records systems enable this data collection while taking into account confidentially issues.
- Coordinate with community services agencies, such as shelters, soup kitchens, food banks, street outreach teams, drop-in centers, welfare and housing agencies, public health departments, and faith-based organizations.
- Provide outreach materials and posters where there is a frequent influx of low-income families and youth in high-risk situations, including motels and campgrounds.
- Develop relationships with truancy officials and/or other attendance offices.
- Provide awareness activities for school staff (registrars, secretaries, school counselors, school social workers, school nurses, teachers, bus drivers, administrators, etc.)
- Make special efforts to identify preschool children, including asking about the siblings of school-age children.
- Use enrollment and withdrawal forms to inquire about living situations.
- Have students draw or write about where they live.
- Avoid using the word "homeless" in initial contacts with school personnel, families, or youth.
- Develop and implement districtwide identification form and put it in each registration packet.
- Identify a site liaison at each school to identify and assist homeless students.
- Sort students by address in database to identify double-up situations.
- Conduct family nights to offer health checks, services, and resources.
- Conduct home visits to determine doubled-up situations and verification.
- Collaborate with other LEAs in the area.
- Collaborate with migrant education programs to assist with identification.
- Work with school counselors and outreach workers to work with families and youth.
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
A national grassroots membership association that connects educators, parents, advocates, researchers, and service providers to ensure success for children and youths in homeless situations.
National Center for Homeless Education at SERVE
Educational organization that promotes continuous improvement of educational opportunities for all learners.
National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty
A legal resource center that provides legal assistance.