2017 Year-in-Review

In a tumultuous year, SchoolHouse Connection has remained focused, steady, and strong. Our mission of overcoming homelessness through education has never been as important. 

We are proud of our many accomplishments in 2017. Below you’ll find our staff-selected Top 5 Overall Accomplishments, as well as SHC’s “Top 5 Lists,” which represent the most widely accessed and popular SHC activities and resources, based on user analytics.

We hope that in reading these lists, you’ll remember some favorites, or discover some new resources and tools.

We thank you for your partnership in 2017, and we look forward to continuing our collective work to ensure brighter futures for children and youth in 2018. 

We also invite you to join us in building on this year’s accomplishments through a donation to SchoolHouse Connection. 

Wishing you a happy 2018!
The SchoolHouse Connection Team

Image above: The SchoolHouse Connection board and staff 
Image above: Our young leaders at the U.S. Capitol
#1 Leading national and state policy advocacy

  • We led federal policy advocacy for three bi-partisan bills in the U.S. Congress that would remove barriers to housing and education. We also launched a major state policy advocacy program, holding State Advocacy Institutes in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee with more planned for 2018. With our state partners, we are working on active legislation in several states.

#2 Timely, responsive, and practical help

  • Within days of the hurricanes and the DACA decisions, we produced tools to assist communities. In addition, we created over 20 new resources to help educators and early childhood providers implement law and policy. We conducted in-person trainings in 16 states, lead or participated in 20 webinars, and responded to hundreds of questions about individual children, youth, and families, many of which are archived in the most popular section of our website: “Q&A from Our inbox”
#3 Building a wider and strong base of support

  • We built a wider and stronger base of support for children and youth experiencing homelessness through new and robust partnerships with diverse organizations, such as Sesame Street Workshop’s Trauma Initiative, Family Promise, the Salvation Army, and America’s Promise Alliance.
#4 Raising awareness and increasing understanding

  • We helped to raise awareness and increase understanding of the education and related needs of homeless children and youth through media outreach and strategic communications, including a featured op-ed in Education Week and 35 e-newsletters. Visitors to our website hear directly from youth and practitioners through our “Guest Perspective” blog and receive timely information on policy, practice, and research. We also collaborated with key partners to produce 50 state progress reports summarizing available data on the early care and education of homeless children and youth, the first step in an exciting national campaign that we will announce in early 2018..
#5 Providing direct support to over 60 young adults

  • We provided direct support to over 60 young adults through our Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program, including helping 17 students cross the finish line to their college graduation. We also brought 13 young leaders to Washington DC, where they educated policymakers in a Congressional briefing and met with officials at the U.S. Department of Education. Our young leaders were featured in Youth Today, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. We will close 2017 by selecting ten new scholarship students, who will receive their award and join our family in 2018.

Top 5 Resources

At SchoolHouse Connection, we provide many tools to help early care and education professionals implement law and policy. Here are some of our most popular resources:

  1. FAFSA Determination
  2. Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness 
  3. Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons
  4. Is My Early Childhood Program a McKinney-Vento “Preschool”? (flowchart)
  5. Supporting Children and Youth Displaced by Disasters: Five Key Policies for Schools

**Bonus: Immigration Students – How Schools Can Help (English version, Spanish Version)

SchoolHouse Connection has definitely become the go-to source for assistance and support in the work we do. I hope you know how grateful so many people are every day for the work you all are doing!
Nicole Sequiera

McKinney-Vento Liaison, Independence Public School District, Missouri

The SchoolHouse Connection website is an incredible resource. I put it in my favorites toolbar, because I visit it all the time.
Courtney Porter

School Social Worker, SAU 6, Claremont NH

Image above: Our young leader, Elaine Williams and other witnesses at the November 27 Senate Committee Hearing on FAFSA

Number of webinars

Number of registrants

Top 5 Q&A

At SchoolHouse Connection, we receive many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Below are the questions that viewers looked at the most. To read more Q&A from our inbox, click here.
1. Under what circumstances may a McKinney-Vento student without a disability ride a “special education” school bus to their school of origin?
Answer: According to the U.S. Department of Education, special education buses can be used to transport McKinney-Vento students without disabilities, as long as no additional IDEA funds are used to transport those students.  This is true even if the bus was purchased with IDEA funds exclusively to transport children with disabilities, as long as the bus is not full, and it can pick up McKinney-Vento students along the usual route.

This letter provides the legal citations and more information on the use of special education transportation for students who are experiencing homelessness. It is important to note that the memo was written prior to the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act; therefore, some of the McKinney-Vento Act provisions that are cited have changed. However, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, upon which the interpretation is based, has not changed since the date of the letter.

2. I give students the FAFSA letter that states they are unaccompanied and homeless, or unaccompanied, self-supporting and at-risk for homelessness, for financial aid purposes; but what about for scholarship applications or college entrance applications?
Answer: If the student asks for copies of the FAFSA homeless verification letter, or asks a liaison/counselor to include a homeless verification letter in an application for college admission or scholarship, then it is fine for the liaison/counselor to provide it.  Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools can release educational records without consent for the purposes of financial aid.

Full Question:  In regards to scholarship and college applications, I give students the FAFSA letter that states they are unaccompanied and homeless, or unaccompanied, self-supporting and at-risk for homelessness, for financial aid purposes; but what about for scholarship applications or college entrance applications?  What is the best way for those students to show documentation that they have no parental income to support them in their college pursuits?

Full Answer:  If the student asks for copies of the FAFSA homeless verification letter, or asks a liaison/counselor to include a homeless verification letter in an application for college admission or scholarship, then it is fine for the liaison/counselor to provide it.  Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools can release educational records without consent for the purposes of financial aid.  However, if the information is for a college application or a private scholarship, it is a good idea to get a signed release of information.  The parent or legal guardian could sign, as well as a caregiver, or the youth herself is she’s 18 or if she’s unaccompanied. There is some great information on FERPA and releases of information for unaccompanied youth here.

If letters of reference are required for college or scholarship applications, the student could ask people writing the letter to reference the student’s homeless situation/status as part of the recommendation letter.

3. Our Department of Human Services refuses to allow the unaccompanied students to access SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or Food Stamps) without the “host” family giving their financial information. What is the law on that?
Answer: Unaccompanied youth do not need to provide host family information on SNAP applications unless they are purchasing and preparing food together with the host family, or if they are under “parental control” of the host family. It’s a case-by-case decision, but in our experience, most unaccompanied youth do not meet either of those criteria. There is a memo addressing this specific issue at: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/Policy_Clarifications_Homeless_Youth_Issues.pdf.
4. How do we cite the McKinney-Vento Act and Title I, since the Every Student Succeeds Act amended them?
Answer: The McKinney-Vento Act remains in Title 42 of the U.S. Code. It can be cited as 42 US Code §§11431-11435.  The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended it, but didn’t change the title or section headings. ESSA’s amendments to Title I did change some of the section headings, so you should look those up on line. You can see all the homelessness-related provisions of Title I, with their new citations, here: https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/TitleIPartA.pdf

You can see the McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by ESSA, here: https://schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/TextofMV.pdf

5. Many of our districts have school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts who work with the district liaison. We know this is a best practice, but we’ve run into challenges regarding lines of authority. For example, if a building contact deems a family homeless, but the liaison disagrees, it can create confusion and undue hardships for families. What would the law say about this?
Answer: We have published Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons that may be helpful. The district level liaison is the ultimate authority on LEA determinations of homelessness and other decisions (disputable by the parent/youth). Building-level contacts can be instrumental in identification and ensuring full implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act and supports to students. However, the identification problems and undue hardships indicate that those LEAs need to provide better training to their building liaisons, so their determinations are correct. There may need to be a clearer protocol of how determinations are made, and a clear understanding that gray areas will be reviewed with the liaison prior to sharing the determination with the family or youth—but without delaying enrollment or services. If the current process and lack of training are creating barriers to enrollment and retention of students, that is a violation of the McKinney-Vento Act. It’s also important to note that ESSA now specifically requires liaisons to ensure that “school personnel providing services under this subtitle receive professional development and other support.”  42 USC §11432(g)(6)(A)(ix). So if the building liaisons are not adequately trained to make eligibility determinations, the liaison needs to train them better.

It’s also important for parents and students to know who the district liaison is and how to reach him or her, since the liaison is ultimately responsible for LEA implementation. ESSA requires: “State coordinators… and local educational agencies shall inform school personnel, service providers, advocates working with homeless families, parents and guardians of homeless children and youths, and homeless children and youths of the duties of the local educational agency liaisons, and publish an annually updated list of the liaisons on the State educational agency’s website.”  42 USC §11432(g)(6)(B).

Image above: Grace (far right) participating in the American Psychological Association (APA) on early childhood education and homelessness.

Top 5 Guest Perspectives

We gain invaluable insights from school district liaisons, state coordinators, service providers and young people. Here are the most viewed essays:

  1. To Create Change, We Must Change: Exploring the Disconnect Between Homelessness and Educational Success – by Deidra Thomas-Murray, Homeless Liaison, Saint Louis Public Schools Students-in-Transition Office
  2. What it Takes to Graduate: Credit Accrual and Recovery for Students Experiencing Homelessness – by Barb Dexter, McKinney-Vento Liaison, Anchorage School District, Anchorage, Alaska
  3. By Supporting HEASHFY, You are Telling Me that You See Me, and that You Support My Education – by Jordyn Roark, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, BSW candidate
  4. Doing What We Can—As Schools and Individuals – by Marta Martinez, McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison, Northside ISD, Texas
  5. #MoreThanHomeless – by Jordyn Roark, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, BSW candidate

**Bonus: HUD Homelessness Policy: One Young Family’s Experience – by Kera Pingree, Portland, Maine, Youth Advisor for the National Network for Youth

By Supporting HEASHFY, You are Telling Me that You See Me, and that You Support My Education.

Jordyn Roark

BSW candidate, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

If we, the professionals, truly intend to create change, we have to change. Homelessness is not a one-size-fits-all situation. We cannot continue to serve families using our assumptions. Ask what families and youth need by conducting a needs assessment. Include families in creating their plan, and then assist them accordingly to the plan.
Deidra Thomas-Murray

Homeless Liaison, Saint Louis Public Schools Students-in-Transition Office

Top 5 Newsletters

We provide timely information on federal and state policy, new resources, research, and local and state guest perspectives on innovative practices and programs. Here are the newsletters that were read the most:

  1. Guess who got selected for SXSW EDU 2018?
  2. New Sesame Street Initiative on Trauma
  3. Groundbreaking Research on Youth Homelessness: Youth Without a High School Degree, Young Parents, and Low-Income at Highest Risk
  4. New School-Housing Legislation, ESSA Tool, and Searchable Q&A
  5. The 2018-19 FAFSA is Out! 5 Things You Need to Know

Check out all of our newsletters here.

Newsletters sent

Number of newsletters

Image above: Our partnership with Sesame Street in Communities to help children cope with traumatic experiences.

Top 5 Research Posts

Image above: Our young leader, Caitlin Cheney in support of the Higher Ed bill (HEAFSHY)

Youth Leadership & Scholarship Program

At SchoolHouse Connection, we believe that young people are the experts on their experiences, needs and strengths. We are also proud to offer a scholarship program. The program provides scholarships to youth who have experienced homelessness to ensure their completion of a post-secondary education program; builds a stable peer and adult support network; and offers young people meaningful opportunities to engage in advocacy.

When Amy told me that Schoolhouse Connection would help me pay for my grad pack, I cried. Being on my own has made these past four years of undergrad hard, and the time had finally come to where I’d see all my hard work and struggle pay off. When I realized how expensive it was too just to walk for graduation, I already knew I wouldn’t be able to afford it. It becomes too easy for somebody like me to feel like people have forgotten about us or don’t care, and time and time again, I’ve been proved wrong. Thank you for helping me be able to walk in my commencement ceremony! Thank you for reminding me that there are people who do care. I cannot possibly explain the amount of joy and gratitude that I have for what you’ve done for me and for all the work you do. Thank you!”
Nancy Guzman

Number of Young Adult Leaders

Number of Gift Cards Given

Number of Textbooks Given

Scholarships to be Awarded

Image above: Our young leaders at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC.

McKinney-Vento / ESSA Training

We provide in-person training all over the nation, from Virginia to Washington State. In 2017, we conducted over 30 training sessions in 16 states on topics ranging from federal and state policy, McKinney-Vento and ESSA implementation, immigrant students, higher education, and early childhood programs.
Image above: Barbara, Patricia, and our young leaders, Hannah and Elaine at a conference in Virginia.


Minneapolis, MN

Medford, OR

Williamsburg, VA

Boise, ID

Spokane, WA

Washington, DC

South Dakota


Rochester, NH

Manchester NH

Gorham NH

Seatac WA

TX state

Rhode Island


Claremont, NH

Laconia, NH

Florida Institute on Homelessness and Supportive Housing

Eugene, OR

Image above: Patricia Julianelle at ESSA trainings in New Hampshire
The staff at SchoolHouse Connection are amazing; they are an incredibly talented and passionate team of professionals who bring awareness to an important societal issue and make an indelible impact on the work we do with children experiencing homelessness.  I value our partnership greatly and learn from them every day.  They’ve made our world and the work we do a little wider.
Jennifer Tisdale, MSW, MPH

Project CATCH Coordinator, Salvation Army

National Partnerships

At the core of who we are and what we do is our large national grassroots network. We listen and learn, then advocate and implement. We are lucky to have robust partnerships with many wonderful organizations.

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