Can My Kids Stay in the Same School if we Become Homeless? What Educational Rights do my Children Have if we Become Homeless?

If your family becomes homeless your child have the right to remain in their same school district even if you move to another town.
The McKinney-Vento Act was passed by congress in 1987.  The law gives homeless children the right to:
  1. Remain in the same school district if they become homeless as long as it is in the child’s best interest.  If the family moves over 50 miles away it may not be in that child’s best interest to travel that far to go to school.
  2. Get immediate enrollment in a new school without required documents such as proof of residency, immunizations or prior school records or a parent or guardian present.
  3. Get transportation – The school district must provide transportation for the child to get back and forth to school.  If a child is living in a shelter the local Social Services Department may provide transportation.
  4. Get all school services they need example special education services.
Who is considered a homeless child?
A child who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
Fixed: A fix residence is one that is stationary, permanent, not subject to change attached to the  ground
Regular:  A regular residence is one which is used on a predictable or routine basis. – Can I go there every night?  Do I have keys?  Do I have a legal right to be there?
Adequate: An adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in a home enviroment Does it have running water?  Is it over crowed?  Do you have your own bed?
To be considered homeless you just have to be lacking one.  A permanently housed individual has a fixed, regular and adequate place to live.
Below are all examples of children who can be considered homeless:
  1. This includes children who are sharing a home with a friend or family member due to loss of housing or economic hardship
  2. children living in motels, trailer parks or camping grounds because they have nowhere else to go
  3. migratory child
  4. A child living in places not usually used for sleeping such as  a car, public place or abandoned buildings
  5.  A child abandoned in a hospital,
  6.  A child awaiting a foster care placement
  7. A child living in a shelter
What if I am a Youth living on my own am I covered under the law?
Yes, the law covers homeless youth who are not living with a parent or guardian.  These children are called unaccompanied youth.
An unaccompanied youth include youth who:
  1. Youth who were asked to leave their home by a parent or guardian
  2. Youth who left home with parental consent
  3. Youth who ran away from home
  4. Youth who have no formal custody arrangements when their parent is in the hospital, rehabilitation center or jail.
  5. Do not have a Fixed, Regular or Adequate place to live.
Choice of District
Children who are homeless may have some options when attending school.
  1. They can stay in their current district – The school district they are currently attending.
  2. Their district of origin – The school district they were in before becoming homeless
  3. The  district where they are currently residing The school district that is where they are currently homeless in.
Who at the school district can help me?
Under the law every school district is required to have a Homeless Liaison or Coordinator.  This person is required to help homeless children enroll and succeed in school and set up transportation and  free lunch and if available in the school district free breakfast. To find out who the Liaison is in your district contact the school districts cental office.
What else can my school’s liaison or  coordinator do for me?
Liaisons or Coordinators can provide helpful information.   Each school district has Title 1 or Set-Aside funds that may help with the following help with school supplies, supplies needed for after school activities, setting up transportation or after school or special activities, many will pay for you to attend class trips and special events, tutoring or mentoring services.  Make sure you ask what your school can do for you.
Transportation:
School Districts must provide transportation to and from school if the family becomes homeless however the law does not say what kind of transportation.  Often times the school district will set up a regular school bus other times they may pay for public bus, train or subway, or a taxi, van or other type of car.  The transportation provided must  be safe for the child.
Signs a Student May be Homeless
  1. A child who has attended may different schools
  2. A child has poor attendance
  3. A child who if often tired or sleeping in class
  4. A child who has poor hygiene
  5. A child who is not prepared for school ie. does not have a backpack, books, pencils, homework not completed.
  6. A child who has a change in behavior i.e withdraws, shyness, nervousness, aggression or anger.