Early Childhood

Coordination Guidance for Integrating Homelessness into Working Agreements and MOUs between Head Start Grantees and Local Educational Agencies

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), requires local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving Title I, Part A funds to develop agreements with Head Start and, if feasible, other early childhood development programs to increase coordination in communities. Similarly, the Head Start Act, as amended by the Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, requires Head Start programs to enter into agreements with LEAs and other early childhood providers. The goal of this coordination is to provide higher quality learning experiences and improve education and other outcomes for children and families experiencing homelessness.

Subtitle VII-B of The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act authorizes the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program and is the primary piece of federal legislation related to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. ESSA also amended the McKinney-Vento Act’s EHCY program, which directs LEAs in their implementation of ESSA for students experiencing homelessness, in several important ways to increase access to preschool programs.  It requires that every LEA designate a liaison with specific responsibilities, including ensuring that children experiencing homelessness are identified and receive educational services for which they are eligible, including Head Start, Early intervention (IDEA Part C), and preschool programs administered by the LEA. In addition, children experiencing homelessness can enroll immediately in LEA-administered preschools (if space is available) without typically-required documents; continue attending their LEA-administered preschool even if they move out of the attendance area; and receive transportation to LEA-administered preschool in many cases. Note that LEA-administered preschool programs may be funded by the Office of Head Start.  More information about which preschool programs are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act and how to apply the Act to LEA-administered preschool programs is available on the SchoolHouse Connection website.

U.S. Department of Education (ED) guidance on the EHCY program further supports collaboration between LEAs and Head Start programs. The guidance directs homeless liaisons to contact agencies responsible for administering Head Start and discuss ways of coordinating referrals, and it encourages liaisons to work with early childhood education partners to identify homeless preschool-age children. More generally, the guidance states that it is important for EHCY State Coordinators and local liaisons to coordinate (with other education and community agencies) and gives several reasons for doing so: to facilitate consistent eligibility criteria across agencies serving the same families, children, and youths; to coordinate or expedite referrals for services; and to coordinate services overall for families or youths in order to improve education and other outcomes for homeless children and youths.

Regulations for Head Start and Early Head Start programs are provided through the Head Start Program Performance Standards (45 CFR Chapter XIII).  Head Start promotes school readiness of children under five from low-income families through education, health, social, and other services. The Head Start Act and the Head Start Program Performance Standards include requirements for serving children and families experiencing homelessness, including enrollment, outreach, and collaboration.

All LEAs and Head Start programs should maintain formal working agreements that clarify how they will work together to comply with the federal requirements in Title I, Part A, the Head Start Act, and the McKinney-Vento Act. Such agreements should be tailored to meet the community’s unique needs and reflect a comprehensive approach, rooted in best practices.

This document summarizes legal requirements pertaining to coordination between LEAs and Head Start and includes a list of potential actions and activities that can be used to achieve coordination of services for children experiencing homelessness. Each summary is organized by topic to assist in embedding policies and practices to serve young children experiencing homelessness into each agency’s broader formal agreement between the LEA and Head Start.

Requirements and Opportunities


Enrollment and Records

Data and Needs Assessments

Coordinating Services/Communication


Professional Development 

Facilities and Transportation

Potential Actions and Activities

The following Head Start and LEA potential actions and activities relate specifically to coordination of services for children experiencing homelessness. They are listed by topic so that they can be referenced and formally embedded into each agency’s broader formal agreement.

Identification, Data, and Records Sharing 

Coordinating Services/Communication


Professional Development 

Curriculum and Instruction 

Services for Children with Disabilities 

Family Engagement 


North Carolina’s ESSA Title I, Part A and Head Start Act LEA (Local Education Agency)/Head Start Coordination Guidance provided the template for this tool and is recommended to LEAs and Head Start agencies to develop or update the broader overall LEA-HS MOUs required by ESSA and HSPPS to articulate the many opportunities to work together in supporting children, families and communities. Access the North Carolina document here.



Thank you to the Head Start State Collaboration Office Learning Community on Homelessness. Our monthly calls offered a forum for sharing the accomplishments of Head Start grantees and LEAs in their states, their challenges and hopes, which resulted in a wide range of models, possibilities and opportunities for working better together. A special thank you to Karen McKnight, Director of North Carolina’s Head Start State Collaboration Office, who generously shared her state’s initiative to convene regional meetings of Head Start grantees and LEAs to revisit and update existing agreements to better align with new provisions in The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). The North Carolina coordination guidance document was a valuable template on which to build. Thanks also to staff at the National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement for their ongoing partnership to ensure the experience of homelessness is represented in their resources for staff, families and communities. Our collective efforts continue to be enriched by a spirit of collaboration.

[1] 42 USC §11434a(2)

[2] 45 CFR §1305.2

[3] 45 C.F.R. §1302.12(c)(iii).

[4] 20 U.S.C. §6315(c)(2)(E).

[5] 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(3)(A)-(B), 11432(g)(3)(I).

[6] 45 C.F.R. §1302.15(b)(3).

[7] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(C).

[8] 45 C.F.R. §§1302.15(b)(3), 1302.72(a)

[9] 45 C.F.R. §1302.15(c).

[10] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(1)(I).

[11] 45 C.F.R. §1302.12(h).

[12] 45 C.F.R. §1302.16(c)(1).

[13] 42 U.S.C. §(g)(3)(C).

[14] 45 C.F.R. §1302.11(b)(1)(i)(A) & (b)(2).

[15] 42 U.S.C. 11433(b)(1).

[16] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(6)(A)(iii).

[17] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(6)(A)(iv).

[18] 45 C.F.R. §1302.72(a).

[19] 42 U.S.C. §(g)(3)(C).

[20] 42 U.S.C. §(g)(6)(A)(ix).

[21] 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(1)(J)(iii), 11432(g)(3)(I).

[22] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(4)(A)

[23] 45 C.F.R. §1302.16(c)(2).