Answer: Under the McKinney-Vento Act, lack of a legal guardian or guardianship documents cannot delay or prevent the immediate enrollment of an unaccompanied youth. The legal citation is 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(3)(C), (g)(1)(H)(iv).
LEAs may adopt their own policies to meet these mandates. However, whatever procedures are used, those procedures must ensure immediate enrollment, as the McKinney-Vento Act requires states and LEAs to eliminate barriers to identification, enrollment and retention and to enroll unaccompanied youth in school immediately. 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(1)(I), (g)(7).
The Caregiver Authorization Affidavit does not confer parental rights – it merely gives the school district a document to substitute for typical enrollment forms. In cases of potential trafficking, the safest place for unaccompanied youth to be is in school immediately. Having the youth in school, and having the contact information of the person with whom they are staying, is the best way to follow up and ensure the student’s safety, if there are suspicions. Turning the youth away not only would violate federal law, it also would place the youth in greater harm’s way.