Early Childhood

State Provisions to Help Children Experiencing Homelessness Access Child Care and Preschool

Quality early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Yet homelessness creates unique barriers to accessing and participating in early childhood programs. Federal laws and regulations support prioritizing and streamlining access to child care and preschool for children experiencing homelessness.[1] Under federal regulations, states must prioritize children experiencing homelessness for child care services. Families can start receiving services while working to assemble immunization, health and safety, and eligibility documents. Child care subsidy agencies must do specific outreach to families experiencing homelessness and improve their access to child care. More information on federal child care regulations is available on our website.

The McKinney-Vento Act applies to public preschools. This means children experiencing homelessness can enroll immediately in preschools without typically required documents (if space is available); continue attending their preschool even if they move out of the attendance area; and receive transportation to preschool in many cases. More information about which preschool programs are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act and how to apply the Act to preschool programs is available on our website.

These federal protections are important and powerful. However, as early childhood education is implemented differently from state to state, state laws are equally important. This document summarizes state laws, regulations and policies that help children experiencing homelessness access child care and preschool.[2] SchoolHouse Connection is grateful to Baker McKenzie and United Airlines for contributing many hours of research to the production of this document.[3] The next phase of our research will involve determining to what extent these promising state policies are being implemented.

Table of Contents

Child Care

  1. Automatic or Streamlined Eligibility for Children Experiencing Homelessness
  2. Priority for Children Experiencing Homelessness to Receive Child Care Subsidies
  3. Exemptions from Work Requirements for Parents Experiencing Homelessness
  4. Co-Payments Waived for Parents Experiencing Homelessness
  5. Exemption or Grace Period for Children Experiencing Homelessness to Submit Eligibility/Enrollment Documentation (with immediate enrollment pending document submission)
  6. Grace Period for Children Experiencing Homelessness to Meet Immunization Requirements Specifically (with immediate enrollment pending meeting requirements)


  1. Outreach / Recruitment
  2. Priority / Reservation of Slots / Eligibility
  3. Funding / Grants
  4. Services

[1] Child care, preschool, Head Start, and other early childhood programs define homelessness the same as the McKinney-Vento Act.

[2] Please contact Rodd Monts to share information about other state provisions to help children experiencing homelessness access early childhood programs, or to request SchoolHouse Connection’s help on state law advocacy in your state. Note that this document does not include Head Start, early intervention (IDEA Part C), or home visiting programs. Although these are essential early learning programs, which also include important protections for children experiencing homelessness, their federal legal structure results in less state policy action on implementation.

[3] The references and content provided in this analysis are for general information only and are not intended as legal advice. Although we strive to provide accurate and up to date legal information, we cannot promise it is error free or that it is suitable for your specific concerns. Therefore, you should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice for any issue specific to your situation. If you use the materials and information provided in this analysis, including the links to external sources, it does not create an attorney-client relationship between us or any providers of information you find in this document, and we take no responsibility for any information linked to this analysis or to SchoolHouse Connection’s website more broadly. We are not advocating for or endorsing any reference, resource, provider, or the like referenced in this analysis.