“Nationally, One in 45 children experience homelessness in America each year. That’s over 1.6 million children. While homeless, they experience high rates of acute and chronic health problems. The constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experience also has profound effects on their development and ability to learn.”
Education Rights of Homeless Students – McKinney-Vento Act
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the primary federal (U.S) law dealing with the education of children and youth in homeless situations. The McKinney-Vento Act protects the right of homeless children and youth to get to, stay in, and be successful in school while they or their families are homeless. The law focuses on maintaining school stability and school access and providing support for academic success for homeless kids. The law also requires schools and states to use child-centered, best-interest decision making when working with homeless children and their families to choose a homeless child’s school, services, and other needed resources.
Why do homeless children and youth need a federal law to protect their right to an education?
Homeless children and youth face lots of barriers in trying to enroll, remain, and be successful in school, including:
- Enrollment requirements (school records, health records, proof of residence, and guardianship)
- High mobility resulting in a lack of school stability and educational continuity.
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of school supplies, clothing, etc
- Poor health, fatigue, hunger, anxiety/trauma
- Invisibility (lack of awareness)
- Prejudice and misunderstanding
- For unaccompanied youth (youth who do not live with their parents or a guardian): lack of adult guardian; need for employment; credit accrual policies; concerns of capture by authorities.
Who are homeless children and youth?
The McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of who qualifies as a homeless child or youth is quite broad: “Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” including, but not limited to:
- Sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason (“doubled up”)
- Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds due to lack of adequate alternative accommodations
- Living in emergency or transitional shelters
- Abandoned in hospitals
- Awaiting foster care placement
- Living in a public or private place not designed for humans to live
- Living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, bus or train stations, etc.
- Migratory children living in the above circumstances
Is there an age limit on who is eligible for McKinney-Vento services?
No, the law does not specify an age range. McKinney-Vento applies to all school-aged children and youth.
What do I do if my school-aged children become homeless?
Notify your child(ren)’s school as soon as you can and fill out the necessary form so that they can work with you to decide future educational services. Children who are experiencing homelessness are eligible for their school’s nutrition program. Your local school can help to facilitate access to nutrition, transportation, and possible other resources. They will contact the OESU Homeless liaison on your behalf.
Initial Referral Form for Local Schools
Homeless Liaison for OESU
Nicole Bell, Curriculum Coordinator
The goals of this legislation include
- Identifying homeless children and youth
- Immediate enrollment and facilitation of enrollment disputes
- Ensuring access to school and appropriate educational services
- Reducing school transfers and supporting educational stability and continuity
- Increasing parental choice and involvement regarding school enrollment
- Ensuring the educational rights of unaccompanied youth, and
- Providing information about the rights of homeless children and youth
Visit the Vermont Agency of Education website for additional information.