Education is a critical strategy both for addressing child and youth homelessness and for preventing it from re-occurring in the future. In today’s economy, completing high school is a bare minimum for obtaining a job that pays enough to afford safe, stable housing. High school graduation is also linked to many other important indicators of health and well-being.
We’ve carefully compiled resources on federal PreK-12 law and policy, including tools, innovative practices, and the latest research. Stay in touch with us to learn about new resources as we produce and collect them.
1. The American Rescue Plan Act provided an historic $800 million to support the identification, enrollment, and school participation of children and youth experiencing homelessness, including through wrap-around services. This page contains some of the great ways that states and districts are using American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds, as well as related resources and webinars.
2. Find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.
3. In 2023, SchoolHouse Connection will be launching its McKinney-Vento Training Series for School Personnel, comprehensive online modules providing principles and practices that help ensure educational access and success for children and youth experiencing homelessness, and support school districts and charter schools in meeting federal professional development requirements. Learn more and sign up for release updates.
Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness
This resource provides strategies and considerations for liaisons to ensure students are identified as soon as possible, as well as a framework for liaisons to use after a student has been identified as experiencing homelessness.
Resources to Support Immigrant and Migrant Students Experiencing Homelessness
Many students and families arrive in the U.S. from other countries without safe, stable housing, and experience homelessness and high mobility that can last for months. At SchoolHouse Connection, we recognize the crucial role that schools can play in providing stability and support to mitigate the disruption and trauma caused by homelessness. This page is dedicated to providing educators, policymakers, and advocates with valuable resources on how to best support these families and youth, and help ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and beyond.
- Recently Asked Questions and Answers on Displaced Immigrant Families and Education
- Strategies for Supporting Immigrant and Migrant Students Experiencing Homelessness
- Immigrant Students Experiencing Homelessness: Liaisons’ Strategies
- Immigrant Students: How Schools Can Help
- Other National Resources
Memorandum: Statement on Immunization Records
This 2007 memorandum from former Surgeon General of the United States Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders provides a statement on why homeless students should not be denied access to school if they arrive without the proper immunization records. You can also learn more about state policies around extended immunization deadlines with this summary.
Allowable and Strategic Uses of American Rescue Plan – Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) Funds
This document summarizes allowable uses of ARP-HCY funds; provides answers to questions received to date about specific uses; and offers recommendations for strategically using ARP-HCY funds to identify and support children and youth experiencing homelessness. This is a living document that will be updated as additional federal guidance is issued, and as state and local educational agencies continue to use ARP-HCY funds.
Help Homeless and Foster Youth Get a $1,502 Tax Refund in 2022
This tax season, there are special rules for homeless and foster youth that were achieved through the American Rescue Plan Act, and the tremendous leadership of U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL).
Overview of U.S. Department of Education Guidance on American Rescue Plan Act Homeless Children and Youth Funding
This is a quick overview of the timing, allocation, and uses of funds of the American Rescue Plan homeless children and youth funding.
Navigating the American Rescue Plan Act’s Relief for Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness
The American Rescue Plan Act provides significant new resources to meet the education, early care, food, housing, and other basic needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. This navigation tool is designed to help early care, educators, and service providers navigate the major funding streams and connect with local and state agencies to help families and youth access assistance.
How to Use American Rescue Plan Act K-12 Education Funds to Identify and Support Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), Congress’ most recent package for COVID-19 relief, provides nearly $123 billion in aid for K-12 education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). This resource provides recommendations on how state agencies, schools, and districts can use ARP funds for students experiencing homelessness.
School Reopening and Recovery: Considerations for Serving Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness
[Updated April 2021] This checklist offers important considerations to help state and local educational agencies ensure equitable access to education for students experiencing homelessness as they prepare for the new school year.
One of the homeless liaison’s responsibilities is informing unaccompanied homeless youth (youth who are not in the physical custody of their parents or guardians) of their status as independent students for the FAFSA, and helping them receive FAFSA determinations. Liaisons can help implement this responsibility – which is even more important in light of the disruption caused by the pandemic – by following these five steps.
Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds and Students Experiencing Homelessness: How to Make “ESSER II” Funds Work for Your McKinney-Vento Students
This brief provides specific strategies for, and examples of, directing COVID relief funds for children and youth experiencing homelessness at the local level. State education agencies should promote these practices by including and prioritizing them in local educational agency (LEA) applications, guidance, and monitoring.
Economic Stimulus Payments: How to Help Homeless Youth Access Economic Stimulus Payments
Cash going directly to youth experiencing homelessness has been shown to significantly help these youth stabilize and exit homelessness. Economic Stimulus Payments are one way to get cash directly to young people who need it the most. We know that young people and those helping them access these funds have encountered multiple barriers. This tip sheet is the best advice we have received.
Five Strategies to Help Homeless Youth Transition to College During COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis requires McKinney-Vento liaisons and other educators to think creatively about how to carry out their responsibilities to help youth experiencing homelessness transition to higher education. This resource lays out five strategies to help keep the dream of a postsecondary education alive for youth experiencing homelessness, during and beyond these troubled times.
How Charter Schools Can Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
Authored jointly by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and SchoolHouse Connection, this toolkit is intended as a charter school-focused resource that explains the basic legal requirements of the McKinney Vento Act, while highlighting a few examples of best practices from the charter school community.
Public Service Announcements: Raising Awareness and Reaching Families and Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Schools are required to identify, enroll, and serve homeless children and youth, but distance learning and other COVID-related complications mean it is easier than ever for them to fall through the cracks. It’s vital that families and youth who are homeless know that help is available – that they have educational rights, and know how to exercise them.To help spread the word and give communities a starting place for outreach and identification, SchoolHouse Connection is promoting three public service announcements aimed at reaching youth, families, educators, community organizations, and leaders.
- PSA #1 – Do You See the Child Experiencing Homelessness?
- PSA #2 – Elmo’s Message to Children and Parents Experiencing Homelessness
- PSA #3 – Dez Says: Don’t Let Homelessness Stop Your Education, Find Help
Removing Barriers to Online Enrollment for Students Experiencing Homelessness
This checklist outlines some of the most common barriers to online enrollment for students experiencing homelessness and provides strategies for addressing them. Using this checklist to assess and remove barriers will help ensure students experiencing homelessness can have immediate and equitable access to school.
Awarding and Accepting Partial Credits for Students Experiencing Homelessness
Developed in partnership with a school counselor, this checklist is designed to help school counselors and registrars calculate, award, and receive partial credits, leading to increased high school graduation and decreased homelessness for youth.
6 Things to Know About Privacy, FERPA, and Homelessness
This issue brief explains what educational information pertaining to homeless students can be shared, with whom, and under what circumstances, consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the McKinney-Vento Act.
Supporting the Attendance of Students Experiencing Homelessness
This brief shares strategies that schools, districts, and communities are implementing to help ensure that students experiencing homelessness are in school, every day.
Editable “Know Your Rights” Flyers
“Know Your Rights” flyers can help get the word out about the rights of students experiencing homelessness, while also helping parents and youth understand how sharing their situation can increase access to and stability in school. We’ve created simple flyers for parents and for unaccompanied youth that can be edited for specific communities. We invite you to download and insert your logo, website, and local contact information.
Interview Checklists for Supporting School Selection
These interview checklists (one for parents and one for unaccompanied youth) are designed to facilitate open conversations about the school that is in a student’s best interest to attend, emphasizing the importance of parents and youth being fully informed and carefully considering the benefits of school stability prior to changing schools.
Back-to-School Training Resources
Training school staff is essential in order for children and youth experiencing homelessness to be identified, and to receive the educational protections and services to which they are entitled. In response to many requests, we are pleased to offer these resources designed for liaisons to use when training school staff – for example, teachers, bus drivers, and principals.
Definition and Signs of Homelessness
What is the definition of homelessness for schools, and what are some common signs of homelessness? This resource covers both topics.
Tips for Teachers & Staff: How to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
For many students experiencing homelessness, school is the only place of stability in their lives. Teachers play a crucial role in creating a classroom environment that is safe and supportive for all students, especially those who are highly mobile and have experienced the trauma that often accompanies homelessness. Here, we provide information and strategies that teachers and support staff can use to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness.
Positive School Discipline Practices for Students Experiencing Homelessness
This document provides a brief overview of school discipline, shares research on the discipline of students experiencing homelessness, and offers tips for implementing positive school discipline for students experiencing homelessness. It also shares stories and suggestions from SchoolHouse Connection Young Leaders who experienced homelessness.
Early Care and Education Advocacy: A Tip Sheet for Housing and Homeless Assistance Providers
This short document provides basic information to help housing and homeless assistance providers advocate with their families and youth for appropriate educational services, from birth through higher education. The rights and protections outlined here apply to all children and youth experiencing homelessness, as defined by the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act.
Pathways to Partnership: Higher Education
This second “Pathways to Partnership” series is designed to help LEA homeless liaisons and homeless service providers to 1) gain a basic understanding of some important higher education programs, including those programs that have specific requirements on homelessness; and 2) create and sustain higher education partnerships. Connecting youth and young adults who experience homelessness with the appropriate resources will help pave a smoother transition to and through postsecondary education.
Deeper Dives for Schools: Practical Strategies to Serve Young Children Experiencing Homelessness
This docoument is created in partnership with David Douglas School District in Oregon. It is designed to provide school and district staff with practical strategies to serve young children experiencing homelessness. Each one-page tip sheet shares strategies on a different aspect of access.
A Closer Look at ESSA, Title I Part A, and Students Experiencing Homelessness
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created important new requirements and opportunities for serving children and youth experiencing homelessness through Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The ESSA amendments to Title I Part A go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Learn what’s new, including a sample needs assessment and new summaries.
Quick Guide for Counseling Staff Working with Students Experiencing Homelessness
School counselors provide important support to students experiencing homelessness. The Every Student Succeeds Act recognized this role by adding requirements that counselors advise students experiencing homelessness and improve their readiness for college. This quick guide, written by a school counselor, provides practical tips and strategies for supporting students experiencing homelessness, helping meet their basic needs, and planning for graduation.
Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood Education
Quality early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s health and well-being, and help families experiencing homelessness regain stability. Local educational agency (LEA) McKinney-Vento liaisons and homeless service providers funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are required by law to connect families experiencing homelessness to early childhood programs. This guide is designed to help LEA liaisons and homeless service providers develop a basic understanding of, and build partnerships with, five key early childhood programs.
Transportation for Students in Foster Care: A Legal and Practical Reference Tool
Students in foster care move frequently. They move when they are first brought into care, and caseworkers may change children’s placements multiple times over their time in care. However, students in foster care should not have to change schools every time their foster placement is changed. This two-page brief reviews requirements for child welfare agencies and educational agencies; provides considerations for developing foster care transportation procedures; and includes links to sample transportation guidelines and procedures.
McKinney-Vento Website Tool
Today, many families and youth get information from the internet. This makes it important for school district websites to contain information about the McKinney-Vento Act. Is your school district’s website a McKinney-Vento tool? We’ve created a simple guide to help.
Supporting Children and Youth Displaced by Disasters
A brief summarizes five key policies and provides quick tips for their implementation.
LEA Liaison Self-Assessment Tool
Of all of the amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new requirement for local educational agency (LEA) liaisons to be “able to carry out” ten specific duties in the law has the potential to have the greatest impact on children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. We developed a simple tool to help LEAs quickly identify and prioritize areas where greater capacity is needed to carry out the law.
Making the Case series. This series will share real students’ situations and walk through making the legal case for providing the support the student needs.
- Making the Case #1 – Legal Language to Support Students
- Making the Case #2 – Extracurricular Activities
Preschool to Prevent Homelessness: Research, Rights, and Resources
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act in several important ways to increase access to preschool programs. This page contains frequent questions and answers about preschool and homelessness, and links to resources to help implement the new policies.
ESSA PowerPoint template. All are welcome to download, edit and use this template, which includes the latest guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, new research, a pop quiz, an interactive exercise, sound clips from youth, and new resources.
- Download the Full Powerpoint. (Full version with audio) Note: the PowerPoint file above is large (46MB) because it contains embedded three audio clips with voices of youth.
- Download the Shorter Powerpoint (Smaller version, without audio, 4.7 MB)
Introduction to ESSA and Homelessness: Powerpoint from ICPH Conference
SchoolHouse Connection teamed up with National Center on Homeless Education (NCHE) for a primer on ESSA and homelessness at the 2018 Beyond Housing conference, hosted by the Institute for Children, Poverty, & Homelessness (ICPH). Check out the PowerPoint from that session, which can be downloaded and used in your own trainings. ICPH has made all of the conference session materials available here.
Preschool flow chart
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act to include preschools specifically within the definition of “school of origin. To determine whether a particular early childhood education program is a “preschool” under ESSA, a helpful reference is the definition ED uses for McKinney-Vento data collection. This flow chart provides a guide to that definition.
Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons
Designating school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts can be a highly effective best practice for identifying children and youth who are experiencing homelessness, and ensuring full implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act. However, sometimes roles can become muddled. These guidelines were created in response to a request from a State McKinney-Vento Coordinator who confronted challenges clarifying lines of authority and responsibility in school districts that designate school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts (in addition to the required designation of the school district McKinney-Vento liaison). The guidelines are designed to share the relevant laws. and provide a procedure to help maintain clear roles and responsibilities.
Full Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities for Students Experiencing Homelessness
Research shows the importance of participation in activity programs in increasing high school graduation and later success in life, particularly for disadvantaged students. Yet homelessness creates significant barriers to participation in athletics and other extra-curricular activities. The ESSA amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act include new policies to remove barriers to participation in extra-curricular activities. This brief, the first in SHC’s “Getting to Graduation” series, explains the new requirements and provides examples of policies to help implement them. In addition, this editable template for school districts (Microsoft Word download) can be used to provide athletic directors and associations with determinations of a youth’s homeless status (or foster care status).
1. The National Center for Homeless Education is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance center. Below are some quick links to essential pages:
2. Established in October 2004 and administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS), the REMS TA Center provides a hub of information, resources, training, and services in the field of school and higher ed emergency operations planning.
3. We receive many PreK-12 questions from educators, service providers, and advocates. We’ll be highlighting questions and our answers on our From Our In-Box page. We also authored many comprehensive ESSA tools for NAEHCY. You can find those tools, including materials to assist with training and implementation, here.
The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires states and school districts to remove barriers to the identification, enrollment, stability, and success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. In addition, Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other laws and policies contain specific provisions on homelessness.
- Two-page summary of the McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by ESSA (updated August 2018)
- Text of the McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
- McKinney-Vento Funding Consolidation Memo. This memo explains the legal requirements to use state and local McKinney-Vento funds to benefit homeless children and youth exclusively.
- Two-page summary of the homelessness-related provisions in Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by ESSA.
- Memo on New Supplement Not Supplant Information from U.S. Department of Education. This memo explains that the Information Document issued by the U.S. Department of Education on June 16, 2019 does not change uses of Title I, Part A funds for students experiencing homelessness.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015: Amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act. This short article is adapted from “Educating Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness in the ESSA Era,” by Patricia Julianelle, published in the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorney’s Inquiry & Analysis, October 2016. We thank the NSBA for their permission to publish this adaptation for school administrators, McKinney-Vento liaisons and others. Visit them at https://www.nsba.org/.
- Authorization and funding history of the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program from FY1987 to FY2016
- Department of Education homelessness page: including federal guidance (updated August 2018), and a fact sheet for educators.
- Letter from the U.S. Department of Education explaining the requirement that students experiencing homelessness have expedited special education evaluations and eligibility determinations. (July 19, 2013)
- Letter from the U.S. Department of Education clarifying that McKinney-Vento students without disabilities may ride special education school buses, and allocation of financial responsibility for special needs students attending their school of origin. (August 5, 2013)
- Immigrant Students: How Schools Can Help (Updated and Translated Brief). Federal rules on immigrant youth and families are changing rapidly. Our regularly updated brief provides basic information about eligibility for education services, and practical suggestions for schools.
- Special Education Guidance: Ensuring the rights of highly mobile children and youth with disabilities. On November 10, the U.S. Department of Education released a Letter to State Directors of Special Education with resources, guidance, and important principles to help states, school districts, families, and others ensure the rights of highly mobile children with disabilities, including children and youth who are homeless or in foster care. The letter affirms that highly mobile children must have timely and expedited evaluations and eligibility determinations, and that comparable services include services during the summer, such as Extended School Year (ESY) services.
- State Laws on High School Graduation for Students Experiencing Homelessness
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) places great emphasis on high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness. This document summarizes state laws that complement these federal requirements.
- State Provisions to Help Children Experiencing Homelessness Access Child Care and Preschool
Many states have passed laws, regulations and policies to enhance federal protections that help children experiencing homelessness access child care and preschool. This document summarizes those state provisions.
Youth-Supportive Transitional Housing Programs As An Essential Resource for Addressing Youth Homelessness
This report shares new data demonstrating that transitional programs for youth and young adults are effective, and an essential and core element of efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. These data underscore the vitality of transitional living programs with robust supportive services as an effective pathway from homelessness for young people, including families with children headed by young parents. Other findings demonstrate that transitional programs have positive outcomes in both rural and urban areas, and for minors as well as young adults.
Lost in the Masked Shuffle & Virtual Void: Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Amidst the Pandemic
Survey data suggests that an estimated 420,000 fewer children and youth experiencing homelessness have been identified and enrolled by schools so far this school year — despite evidence of increasing homelessness, and despite proactive identification efforts by many school district homeless liaisons. This decrease in homeless student enrollment, combined with previous estimates of under-identification, means that as many as 1.4 million children and youth experiencing homelessness may be un-identified and unsupported by their school during the pandemic.
Charter Schools and Students Experiencing Homelessness: Practices and Recommendations for Success
There are approximately 1.5 million K-12 students and an additional 1.4 million children under the age of six experiencing homelessness across the United States. While many of these students attend traditional public schools, a growing number, at least 60,000, are enrolled in charter schools. The purpose of this report is to begin to paint a clearer picture of the experiences and outcomes of students experiencing homelessness enrolled in charter schools. In this document we offer basic information about the McKinney-Vento Act, case studies highlighting best practices across charter schools and networks, and key questions for charter school educators, administrators, authorizers, support staff, advocates, and others.
Youth Risk Behavior Survey – Research, Practice, and Advocacy Tools
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. Since 2017, the YRBS optional question list has included two questions pertaining to homelessness. Researchers, educators, and advocates have used the data from these questions to guide their work, expose severely disproportionate health risks of high school students experiencing homelessness, and advocate for better policies and practices. This webpage seeks to compile YRBS research, practice and advocacy tools in one place, to provide convenient access to those who wish to understand what the YRBS reveals about students experiencing homelessness, and how to use this information in their own work. If you have tools to add to this webpage, please contact Patricia Julianelle. We will update this page as we learn of new information to share.
Student Homelessness: Lessons from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. For the first time since the survey has been widely administered, the 2017 YRBS optional question list included two questions pertaining to homelessness. SchoolHouse Connection analyzed demographic and risk factor data from the YRBS in 17 states[i], comparing high school students experiencing homelessness and those not experiencing homelessness. This series shares the striking and heartbreaking results of that analysis, with tangible action steps schools can take to promote safety and health for students experiencing homelessness.
Risk and Resilience: Differences in Risk Factors and Health Outcomes Between Homeless and Non-Homeless Students in 2017 YRBS Data
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. For the first time since the survey has been widely administered, the 2017 YRBS optional question list included two questions pertaining to homelessness. Using this YRBS data from 17 states (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), we conducted an analysis of differences in seven self-reported risk factors and health outcomes between high school students experiencing homelessness and those not experiencing homelessness. The results were striking and heartbreaking.
Resolution on Students Experiencing Homelessness, of the School Social Work Association of America.
The School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) believes that the supports, requirements, and best practices within ESSA are crucial to improving educational outcomes for students experiencing homelessness. SSWAA believes that more must be done to ensure compliance and hold states, districts, and schools accountable for implementing the requirements under MVA and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Additionally, there should be an increase in funding so that the rights of students experiencing homelessness can be adequately implemented.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Schools. This ground-breaking report, authored by Civic Enterprises and released by America’s Promise, is based on surveys of youth who have experienced homelessness, McKinney-Vento school district liaisons, and McKinney-Vento state coordinators. The website includes an excellent digital media toolkit with infographics that can be used in social media and other awareness-raising efforts.
Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. ICPH has produced many important analyses and reports on children and youth experiencing homelessness, including state-specific reports.
NCHE’s Federal Data Summaries. NCHE produces federal data summaries on PreK-12 children and youth experiencing homelessness, from SY2006 to SY2014.