Under federal law (the McKinney-Vento Act), every local educational agency (LEA) is required to designate a liaison for children and youth experiencing homelessness. LEA homeless liaisons have ten specific duties under the law, one of which is to provide professional development and other support to school personnel. Training school staff is essential in order for children and youth experiencing homelessness to be identified and to receive the education that is their surest path out of homelessness and poverty.
Effective training is especially important in light of the impact of the pandemic. Additional outreach and support will be necessary to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness are identified, enrolled, re-engaged, and supported.
The following resources are designed for liaisons to use when training school staff – for example, teachers, counselors, bus drivers, and principals. We welcome your suggestions for improving these resources, as well as your ideas for new resources. A complete list of all SchoolHouse Connection resources may be found here.
The National Center for Homeless Education, the technical assistance provider for the U.S. Department of Education, also provides professional development materials and trainings.
McKinney-Vento Training Series
In 2023, SchoolHouse Connection will be launching a comprehensive online training modules to 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.
Table of Contents:
- Flyers and Infographics
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
- Customizable Powerpoint Presentations
- American Rescue Plan Tools and Resources
- Email Templates
- Tools for Specific School Staff
- Short Legal Summaries
- Sample Materials from Local School Districts
- Youth Connection Resources
- Spanish Language Resources
- Q&A From Our Inbox
- Directory of State Homeless Education Coordinators and Local Homeless Liaisons
- Supplemental Resources
1. Potential Signs of Homelessness in Virtual Learning Environments
2. Federal Education Definition of Homelessness
3. Federal Education Definition of Homelessness [Editable] – You can insert your agencies’ contact information in this editable Word doc version.
4. “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.
To help inform families and youth about their educational rights, SchoolHouse Connection developed three public service announcements (PSA) aimed at reaching youth, families, educators, community organizations, and local leaders:
1. A PSA from Sesame Street Workshop with a message from Elmo for parents and children experiencing homelessness.
2. A PSA aimed at educators and community members to engage them in efforts to identify and assist families and youth experiencing homelessness.
3. A PSA aimed specifically at youth experiencing homelessness (whether they are with family or not) – narrated by Dez, a youth with lived experience.
To accompany the PSAs, SHC also created www.LetsEducateEveryChild.org as a hub for very basic information for parents, youth, and educators/providers during the pandemic and www.IDeserveAnEducation.org as a hub for K-12 and college students.
For the basics on the McKinney-Vento Act. This customizable PowerPoint includes two basic scenarios with talking points, a quiz, and youth voice video clip. It can be edited for presentation lengths of 15-45 minutes. Simply click on File > Download > Microsoft PowerPoint.
1. Basic Primer PowerPoint on the McKinney-Vento Act. This customizable PowerPoint, updated for the COVID era, includes two basic scenarios, a quiz, a youth voice video clip, and a few PSAs. It can be edited for presentation lengths of 15-45 minutes.
2. Longer PowerPoint for more in-depth training, with legal citations. This PowerPoint can be customized for presentations of 1-2 hours.
3. Spanish PowerPoint and recording.
1. 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.
2. Supporting Young Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness with American Rescue Plan Act Funds
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), Congress’ most recent package for COVID-19 relief, includes billions of dollars dedicated to infants, toddlers, and children under the age of six. In addition to the $800 million in education funding included for identifying and supporting children and youth experiencing homelessness, there are opportunities across other funding streams to target supports for young children and families experiencing homelessness. This document provides recommendations for home visiting, child care providers, head start and early head start programs, and local education agencies.
3. 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.
[Flyer] Signs of Potential Homelessness in Virtual Learning Environments
4. Finding and Building Engagement with Students Experiencing Homelessness Who Left School During School Building Closures: A Checklist
Given the challenges of mobility, deep poverty, and trauma, keeping in touch with students and families experiencing homelessness can be a challenge in the best of times. With school buildings and early childhood programs closed, and students and families moving even more frequently due to COVID-19, maintaining connections is even more difficult. At the same time, the anticipated increase in homelessness over the coming months makes keeping in touch more important than ever. This checklist offers some strategies that liaisons, schools, and early childhood programs can use to keep in touch with students and families.
K-12 Identification Templates
A study conducted jointly by the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) of the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, and three State Education Agencies (SEAs) evaluated a behaviorally-informed email communication pilot in order to support school district homeless liaisons in identifying and supporting homeless students. The study found that making these low-cost adjustments to email communications with homeless liaisons could increase the identification of students experiencing homelessness. Below are email templates used in the study.
Email templates (these links will download as separate documents):
- Email #1 – Intro
- Email #2 – Identification (1)
- Email #3 – Rights
- Email #4 – Identification (2)
- Email #5 – Other Resources
- Email #6 – College Costs
- Email #7 – Vocation
To read more about the project, see this guest post from Daniel Shephard, President of the Implementation Science and Communication Strategies Group.
FAFSA Email Templates
It is important to let students know how to fill out the FAFSA so they can pursue postsecondary education with as much financial aid as possible. This year, there are changes that make it easier for youth experiencing homelessness and youth from foster care to complete the FAFSA. Direct outreach to all students is crucial, since many students may be experiencing homelessness or in foster care, but have not yet been identified by school staff. The FAFSA can be a way to identify these students and provide them with additional support. This email template can be used by school district liaisons, high school counselors, service providers, and financial aid administrators to inform students that the FAFSA is available, and specific steps to help them complete the application.
1. 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.
2. Quick Guide for Counseling Staff Working with Students Experiencing Homelessness
School counselors provide important support to students experiencing homelessness. The McKinney-Vento 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.
3. Checklists for School Staff. This guide was created by Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Pages 11-25 contain checklists that can be copied and adapted, with acknowledgments to OSPI. Checklists are included for the following school staff:
- School counselors and social workers
- Secretaries, registrars, clerks, and administrative assistants
- School nurses and health room assistants
- School principals
- Food services staff
- School support personnel, librarians, school resource officers, paraeducators, and custodial staff
- School bus drivers
4. Sample Form Letters to Determine Independent Student Status of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth for the FAFSA
Federal law (the McKinney-Vento Act) requires school district homeless liaisons to inform unaccompanied homeless youth of their status as independent students for financial aid (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA) and help them obtain verification of that status. To help implement this policy, we’ve prepared a sample form letter (Microsoft Word). This form letter may be edited as appropriate for your school district, institution of higher education, shelter, transitional living program, or street outreach program.
1. Two-page summary of the McKinney-Vento Act
This brief document summarizes the McKinney-Vento Act as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with links to key implementation resources.
2. Two-page summary of Title I, Part A provisions related to homelessness
ESSA created important requirements and opportunities for serving children and youth experiencing homelessness through Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This document summarizes these requirements.
3. One-page summary of access to early learning for children experiencing homelessness, birth to five.
This one-pager summarizes access to early learning for children experiencing homelessness, including the following topic: preschool under the McKinney-Vento Act, Head Start and Early Head Start, Child Care Subsidies, Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV), and support for young children with developmental delays or disabilities.
1. Example of a check-in form from the New Mexico Public Education Department
2. Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Services, has launched an online referral form for community partners to connect families and youth to McKinney-Vento liaisons for education-related needs.
3. Eviction Poster from North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas
4. Enrollment Letter for McKinney-Vento Families – Kylee Fuhr, District Homeless Liaison of St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida, sends this enrollment letter out to every family that is enrolled in the McKinney Vento program either via USPS or email.
5. Awareness Materials from Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, Texas – These materials were created by the Dallas ISD Parent Advocacy & Support Services. They include both English and Spanish materials.
6. The Santa Ana Unified School District district developed an online form to use with parents when disseminating gift cards. It is a google doc that can be completed on a phone or other device.
7. Video from Schoolhouse Link, a partnership between the Safe Children Coalition, Inc., and the Sarasota County School Board. This video is designed for teacher training, specifically.
8. McKinney-Vento Brochure in Ukranian, with thanks to San Juan USD, California
- English version for reference
9. McKinney-Vento Poster in Farsi/Dari (Languages spoken in Afghanistan), with thanks to Irvine USD, California
- English version for reference
10. McKinney-Vento Enrollment Form in Farsi/Dari (Languages spoken in Afghanistan), with thanks to Irvine USD, California
- English version for reference
Enrollment Letter for McKinney-Vento Families by St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida
Awareness Materials from Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, Texas
These resources, written by students, for students, are designed to help them succeed in K-12, higher education, and life. To access all other resources, click here.
1. Does My Living Situation Meet the Definition of Homelessness?
A number of federal laws help to remove barriers to K-12 education, early childhood education, child care, and higher education (including financial aid). All of these education laws use the same definition of homelessness. This resource is designed to help you see if you meet this definition of homelessness, and if so, how you can access education and other resources.
This page will help you navigate the FAFSA as an unaccompanied homeless youth.
It is never too early to prepare to apply for college. Regardless of when you begin, a good first step is to reach out to a high school counselor or a McKinney-Vento liaison to ask about your high school’s graduation requirements and steps you can take to prepare to apply for college. This resource provides an overview of items to consider when applying to college.
This resource page is entirely in Spanish, with fact sheets, flyers, and videos to support children and youth experiencing homelessness, birth through higher education.
1. Volantes Acerca de los Derechos McKinney-Vento | Editable “Know Your Rights” Flyers
- Para los Padres | “Know Your Rights” Flyer [Parents]
- Para los Jóvenes | “Know Your Rights” Flyer [Youth]
2. Un Resumen del Acta McKinney-Vento | The-McKinney-Vento-Act-Quick-Reference
SchoolHouse Connection receives many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about the education and care of children and youth experiencing homelessness. We respond to every question we receive, citing applicable law and policy. In order to assist people who may have similar questions, we feature many of the questions and answers on this web page.
In addition, you can download and print a complete FAQ document, organized by categories.
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.
Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator.
To find the contact information of your state coordinator and local homeless education liaison, click here.
1. Archived webinars and other resources for particular audiences.
2. Video from Schoolhouse Link, a partnership between the Safe Children Coalition, Inc., and the Sarasota County School Board. This video is designed for teacher training, specifically.
1. 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.
2. Local Education Agency Liaison Duties Under the McKinney-Vento Act
The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically. This document lists their duties.
3. Assessing the Capacity of LEA Homeless Liaisons
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, LEA liaisons must be able to “able to carry out” ten specific duties in the law. But what does it mean for liaisons to be able to carry out their legal duties? And how can local educational agencies determine where improvements must be made? This simple tool can help LEAs quickly identify and prioritize areas where greater capacity is needed to carry out the law.
4. 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.
5. Interview Checklists for Supporting School Selection
These interview checklists 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. We created two interview templates, one for parents and one for unaccompanied youth.
6. Full Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities for Students Experiencing Homelessness
The ESSA amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act include policies to remove barriers to participation in extra-curricular activities. This brief explains the requirements and provides examples of policies to help implement them.
7. 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.
8. Supporting Children and Youth Displaced by Disasters
This brief summarizes five key policies and provides quick tips for supporting children and youth displaced by disasters.
9. Tools to Identify Students Experiencing Homelessness
Here are some tools and resources to identify students experiencing homelessness, including webinars, email templates, and briefs.
SchoolHouse Connection receives many questions every week from educators, service providers, and the public about the education and care of children and youth experiencing homelessness. We respond to every question we receive, citing applicable law and policy. In addition, you can download and print a complete FAQ document, organized by categories.
11. Educating Students Experiencing Homelessness
This is a comprehensive handbook on the McKinney-Vento Act and strategies for implementing it. It is available from the American Bar Association.
12. Additional resources for professional development.
This document includes resources for professional development in the field of homelessness and education.