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 during the coronavirus pandemic. Additional outreach and support will be necessary to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness are identified, enrolled, 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.

Table of Contents:

Flyers and Infographics

1. Potential Signs of Homelessness in a Virtual Learning World

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.

Public Service Announcements

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.

Customizable Powerpoint Presentations

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.

COVID-Related Checklists

For all COVID-19 related resources, visit our COVID-19 and Homelessness page. We also receive many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about COVID-19 and homeless students. This Frequently Asked Questions document compiles our best responses to the questions we’ve received, as well as strategies and practices from educators and providers across the country who have participated in our virtual conversations.

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.

4. Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness During School Building Closures

With many school buildings completely or largely closed this fall, identifying students experiencing homelessness will require revisions to typical techniques. The anticipated increase in homelessness due to increased unemployment, family stress, and other factors also will complicate identification efforts. This checklist offers some strategies to promote robust identification of students experiencing homelessness during COVID-19.

[Flyer] Signs of Potential Homelessness in a Virtual Learning World

5. 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.

6. Preparing for School Reopening and Recovery: Considerations in Serving Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

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.

7. Keeping in Touch with Students and Families Experiencing Homelessness During School Building Closures

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.

Email 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:

To read more about the project, see this guest post from Daniel Shephard, President of the Implementation Science and Communication Strategies Group.

Tools for Specific School Staff

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 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.

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:

  • Teachers
  • 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.

Short Legal Summaries

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.

Sample Materials from Local School Districts

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 Farsi/Dari (Languages spoken in Afghanistan), with thanks to San Juan USD, California

9. McKinney-Vento Poster in Farsi/Dari (Languages spoken in Afghanistan), with thanks to Irvine USD, California

10. McKinney-Vento Enrollment Form in Farsi/Dari (Languages spoken in Afghanistan), with thanks to Irvine USD, California

Enrollment Letter for McKinney-Vento Families by St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida

Awareness Materials from Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, Texas

Youth Connection Resources

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.

2. Applying for the FAFSA

This page will help you navigate the FAFSA as an unaccompanied homeless youth.

3. Applying to College

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.

Spanish Language Resources

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

2. Un Resumen del Acta McKinney-Vento | The-McKinney-Vento-Act-Quick-Reference 

Q&A From Our Inbox

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.

Directory of State Homeless Education Coordinators and Local Homeless Liaisons

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.

Videos

1. Video clips 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.

Supplemental Resources

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Three Things You Can Do to Help Homeless and Foster Youth Access Financial Aid for College

Whether you work in K-12, higher education, child welfare, or homeless services, the release of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on October 1 is an important date. This brief provides concrete ways to help youth experiencing homelessness and youth from foster care, as well as practical resources.

6. Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Youth Homelessness

This page provides comprehensive FAFSA-related resources to help youth, K-12 educators, homeless service providers, and higher education professionals understand, prepare, and fill out the FAFSA.

7. 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.

8. Tools to Identify Students Experiencing Homelessness

Here are some tools and resources to identify students experiencing homelessness, including webinars, email templates, and briefs.

9. Q&A from Our Inbox

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.

10. 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.

11. Additional resources for professional development.

This document includes resources for professional development in the field of homelessness and education.

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