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Home > > Practice Areas > Housing and Homelessness > Critical Issues


McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act

Tips for Accessing Educational Supports for Youth in Out-of-Home Care

The Issue

A strong educational foundation is essential for success. This is particularly true for children and youth in our foster care system. For a number of reasons, children placed in foster care often slip behind their peers in school.

By minimizing enrollment delays and providing additional supports to children and youth in care, we can begin to close this gap. Child welfare agencies may be able to bring these resources to children and youth in care through the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act.

As the school year begins, CWLA urges child welfare agencies to partner with their local departments of education to determine which children in care are eligible for federal education assistance through the McKinney-Vento Act.

The Resource

Through the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, communities ensure that children are entitled to continued enrollment in their home school or immediate enrollment in a new school. The act also provides a stream of federal funding for an array of supports including but not limited to tutoring, transportation, and cash assistance to ensure the participation of homeless children and youth in elementary and secondary school. The act guarantees access to school and a meaningful opportunity for educational success.

Although the act was developed for children who are homeless, many of the protections may be applied to children in a variety of out-of-home settings. This is because the act includes in the definition of homeless children a clause that includes children who "are awaiting foster care placement."

In partnership with local departments of education and homeless advocates, communities nationwide have applied McKinney-Vento eligibility to young people who have run away from a foster home, group home, or other placement, and children in a number of temporary living arrangements, including
  • Shelters
  • Emergency, interim, and short-term foster homes
  • Interim group homes and residential placements
  • Evaluation centers or placements for the sole purpose of evaluation

Action Necessary

  • Child welfare agencies should work with local education officials to determine which children may be eligible to receive educational supports through the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act.

  • The U.S. Department of Education has urged local school officials to "consult with their district liaison for homeless children and youth as well as their local public social service agency providers" to determine whether "youth awaiting foster care placement" in their school districts are considered homeless and therefore eligible for the rights and resources available under the law.

  • With the assistance of the courts, attorneys, and guardians ad litem, educators and social services personnel should begin the process of developing memoranda of understanding and the policy changes necessary to apply the McKinney-Vento Act appropriately to children and youth in state custody.

  • Finally, each school district has a McKinney Vento liaison. It is important that child welfare workers get to know their liaison. In the event a school district resists efforts to enroll a child in transition, the McKinney Vento education liaison will help workers in enforcing rights and resources afforded by the act.

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