Homeless Children and Youth
The 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was enacted to confront the problems associated with homelessness in the United States. This program is authorized under Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. It was most recently reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The McKinney-Vento Act mandates state action to ensure that homeless children and youth have equal access to the same free and appropriate public education as their non-homeless counterparts.
The McKinney-Vento program is designed to address the problems that homeless children and youth have faced in enrolling, attending and succeeding in school. Homeless children and youth should have access to the educational and other services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state academic achievement standards to which all students are held. In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment. States and districts are required to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices, or policies that may act as a barrier to the enrollment, attendance or success of homeless children and youth.
For local schools to comply with legislation related to serving students experiencing homelessness they must identify eligible students. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youth (twenty-one years of age and younger) as:
- Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence and includes children who are:
- Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as doubled-up);
- Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
- Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
- Abandoned in hospitals;
- Awaiting foster care placement
- Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a egular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
- Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.
The term “unaccompanied youth” includes a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. This would include youth living in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, on the streets, or in other inadequate housing. This would also include children and youth denied housing by their families and school-aged mothers living in homes for unwed mothers who have no other housing available.
If a child or youth’s living situation does not clearly fall into the situations described above the local school district should refer to the McKinney-Vento definition of “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence” and consider the relative permanence of the living arrangements. Determinations of homelessness should be made on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the community and schools should work together to reach homeless families and unaccompanied youth and ensure they are aware of their educational rights.
Following is a link to information on “Homeless Children and Youth” from the Iowa Department of Education Website.