If you are a parent, whose family does not sleep in a stable, secure, regular, or adequate, residence at night…
If you are a relative, friend, or parent of a friend, who is temporarily taking care of a youth who is not in in the care of their parents AND, if not for your care, the child would not have a stable, secure, regular, or adequate place to sleep at night…
Then the child or youth in your care may qualify to receive certain services and benefits under the McKinney-Vento Act.
- What is McKinney-Vento and why is it important?
- What does it mean to be homeless under McKinney-Vento?
- How can McKinney-Vento help my child?
- Who do I contact to receive help?
- Neither I nor my family identify as homeless, but we do not have a stable place to stay. Can my child still get help?
- I tried to receive help, but school personnel said they could not help me?
- My family does not always know where we are going to sleep at night, does that mean are we homeless?
- I am having financial difficulty and staying with a friend or relative until I can get back on my feet. Does my child qualify for services under McKinney-Vento?
- My child’s friend (family friend, cousin, etc.) stays at our house from time to time because they do not have any other place to go. Are they considered homeless? If they are not in the custody of a parent or guardian, will they still qualify for services?
- Will my family be reported to child protective services if we tell the school we are homeless?
- Will my family be reported to immigration services if we tell the school we are homeless? What schools can my child attend?
- Do I have legal rights under McKinney-Vento?
- What schools can my child attend?
- What if I disagree about the school selected for my child to attend?
- Is the school required to provide transportation to and from school?
- Is the school required to provide transportation to afterschool or other school related programs?
- Is the school required to help me find housing?
- Can my child participate in extra-curricular activities?
- My child has special education needs? Does McKinney-Vento still apply?
- My question is not answered here or I do not understand some of the answers?
1. What is McKinney-Vento and why is it important?
The McKinney-Vento Act is a Federal Law that was designed to support homeless students from kindergarten through 12th grade and help them stay in school. It allows children and youth experiencing homelessness to immediately enroll in school, to stay in school by providing them with transportation to and from school, and to succeed in school by making sure they have access to referrals for education, health, medical, and other appropriate services.
This law is important because it recognizes that not having a stable place to sleep at night, a place to do homework, or moving frequently in search of housing has a profound impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. For this reason, McKinney-Vento defines and recognizes as homeless a broad range of unstable or transitional living situations that may affect a child’s ability to focus on school.
2. What does it mean to be homeless under McKinney-Vento?
To be considered homeless under McKinney-Vento, a child or youth must not have a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This generally means that a child or youth who does not have a stable place to sleep at night may be considered homeless. Examples include, children and youth who live in emergency or transitional shelters, cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, doubled up with family or friends, or couch surfing between homes.
3. How can McKinney-Vento help my child?
McKinney-Vento requires every school district to identify a homeless liaison. The Homeless Liaison is a person who can help put you in touch with resources for housing, food, emergency services, and other important stuff like clothes and toiletries.
The homeless liaison can help you stay in school by:
- Helping you immediately enroll in school
- Helping you stay in the school you attended before you became homeless
- Arranging for transportation to and from school
- Signing you up for free breakfast and lunch at school
- Helping you find emergency resources
- Waiving lost book fines, class fees, and other activity fees
- Helping you find a tutor if you need extra help or if you are falling behind
- Helping you participate in school activities by removing any barriers to your ability to participate.
Homeless Liaisons are there to help you stay in school, because they know that staying in school and getting good grades is the best way to help you be successful. Liaisons are there to help you cope with whatever situation you are in and most importantly, help you stay in school.
4. Who do I contact to receive help?
Every school district has a McKinney-Vento Liaison who can help you enroll your child in school. If you need immediate assistance with a homeless education issue it is best to contact your local liaison (click here for the liaison list). If you live in King, Pierce, or Snohomish County you can click on School Contact Information to find out the best way to receive help in your school district.
If you cannot reach the liaison please contact the State Coordinator, Melinda Dyer, at (360) 725-6050 or email@example.com.
If you have questions about McKinney-Vento or clarification about how McKinney-Vento works, the National Center for Homeless Education has a helpline that you can call at 1-800-208-2145 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty also has a program called Project Learn where you can talk to a lawyer who can provide you with technical assistance, please call (202) 638-2535 for more information.
5. Since neither my family nor I identify as being homeless, but we do reside in an unstable or temporary living situation, can my child still receive help?”
A school cannot force you or your child to identify as homeless or receive services under McKinney-Vento. The purpose of McKinney-Vento is not to label or stigmatize children and families who are dealing with unstable living situations, but rather to help children and youth in these living situations be successful in school.
If you have any questions about McKinney-Vento, please contact your school district’s local homeless liaison to find out more information. If you still feel uncomfortable reaching out to your Homeless Liaison, for whatever reason, please contact Melinda Dyer the State Coordinator at (360) 725-6050 or email@example.com who can help you navigate the process of contacting your homeless liaison.
6. I tried to receive help, but school personnel said they could not help me?
Yes. If you and your family do not have a permanent place to stay at night (for example, temporarily staying with friends because you have no place to go) it is likely that you meet the definition of homeless under McKinney-Vento. This means that a homeless liaison can help if you and your child are living in any of the following places:
- Shelters or transitional housing;
- With friends or family, because you or your family have no other place to go;
- With friends or family, because you have run away, been kicked out of home, or don’t have anywhere else to go;
- In motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds because you have no other place to go;
- In cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, public spaces, or similar places;
- If you are awaiting foster care placement meaning that you have been initially placed in foster care and are awaiting your 30-day shelter care hearing;
- If you are a migrant youth who is living in one of the above living situations.
McKinney-Vento requires that schools reduce any challenges in their practices or policies that may keep students without a stable place to stay from attending school and participating in school activities. Homeless liaisons know that it is difficult to talk about homelessness and are aware of how important it is to keep you and your family’s information confidential. However, in order to assist you in finding services and resources, they may need to share information with school personnel and other service providers, but rest assured that they will be extremely careful to protect your identity. If you have any concerns or questions about what and how information will be shared let your liaison know. Your child’s friends at school will never be informed that he or she is homeless.
7. My family does not always know where we are going to sleep at night, does that mean are we homeless?
Yes, under The McKinney-Vento Act it is likely that your living circumstances meet the criteria for being designated as homeless. If you don’t know if your nighttime residence meets the definition of homelessness, please click here to see the definition of homelessness under McKinney-Vento.
8. I am having financial difficulty and staying with a friend or relative until I can get back on my feet. Does my child qualify for services under McKinney-Vento?
Generally, yes. A family who is sharing housing with others because they lost their housing or because they are facing financial difficulties is considered homeless under McKinney-Vento.
9. My child’s friend (family friend, cousin, etc.) stays at our house from time to time because they do not have any other place to go. Are they considered homeless? If they are not in the custody of a parent or guardian, will they still qualify for services?
McKinney-Vento is decided on a case-by-case basis, because everyone’s circumstances are different. It is always important to revisit the definition of homeless under McKinney-Vento when trying to determine whether a student’s living situation qualifies as a homeless situation. Important questions to ask are:
- Does the youth or the youth’s family lack a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” or does the youth fit into one of the examples of homelessness that meet the definition of homeless under McKinney-Vento? If yes, it is likely that youth will be considered homeless under McKinney-Vento.
- Is the youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian?If yes, the youth is considered an unaccompanied youth under McKinney-Vento.
Unaccompanied youth must also meet the definition of homeless to be eligible for services. If unsure, refer to the definition of homeless and the scenarios included within that definition and contact your local homeless liaison. Also please refer to the I Am a Youth section for more information on how to help an unaccompanied youth.
10. Will my family be reported to child protective services if we tell the school we are homeless?
There are many reasons why a family may be dealing with homelessness. Washington State law in RCW 26.44.020 says that, “Poverty [and] homelessness…does not constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment in and of itself.” Thus letting the school know that you are homeless or facing housing instability should not alone put you or your family in danger of being reported to child protective services.
However, it is important to be aware that professional school personnel are mandatory reporters under Washington State Law and are required to contact law enforcement or the department if they suspect child abuse or neglect. If school personnel suspect or if you share any information that presents a clear and present danger to a child’s health, welfare or safety, such as, but not limited to, substance abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or domestic violence against the child (not necessarily exposure to), they are required to report this information to the proper law enforcement agency or the department of social and health services.
11. Will my family be reported to immigration services if we tell the school we are homeless? What schools can my child attend?
It is illegal for school staff to ask a family about their immigration status or request immigration documents. Immigrant students who meet the definition of homeless under McKinney-Vento are entitled to the same services as non-immigrant homeless students under McKinney-Vento. You will not be reported to immigration.
12. Do I have legal rights under McKinney-Vento?
Yes, under McKinney-Vento, homeless children and youth have the following rights:
- A right to immediate enrollment;
- The right to attend the school you attended when you or your family were permanently housed (“school of origin”) or the school where you were last enrolled;
- The right to transportation to and from their school of origin;
- The right to participate in the same activities as other students;
- The right to participate in the same programs and other services provided to other students;
- The right to dispute a decision made by the homeless liaison or school district about what school you can or cannot attend.
- McKinney-Vento also has a broad mandate that requires school districts to revise policies and practices that create barriers to homeless students enrollment and retention. Enrollment includes attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
13. What schools can my child attend?
McKinney-Vento allows students experiencing homelessness the option of enrolling in the school of origin or the local attendance area school where the student resides.
- The school of origin – is the school the student attended when they were last permanently housed or the school where the student was last enrolled.
- The local attendance area school – Your child has the right to attend the local school where you are now residing due to becoming homeless. You may enroll your student immediately, without the usual documentation required for enrollment.
School selection is determined on what is in the best interests of the student. McKinney-Vento recognizes that it is in the best interests of a student experiencing homelessness to attend their school of origin to the extent it is feasible, unless it is against a parent’s or guardian’s wishes. Factors that schools may consider in determining feasibility include age, commute distance, personal safety issues, the student’s need for special instruction, the length of anticipated stay in a temporary shelter, and the time remaining in the school year.
14. What if I disagree about the school selected for my child to attend?
A school district must provide a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth with a written statement of the school placement decision and information regarding the right to appeal. The school district will refer the dispute to the liaison who is required to carry out the dispute resolution process as quickly as possible. While the appeal process is pending, students must be immediately enrolled in the school they have requested to attend and continue to receive services for which they are eligible until the dispute is resolved.
15. Is the school required to provide transportation to afterschool or other school related programs?
Yes. Schools are required to provide transportation to homeless students to and from their school of origin. If the student is not attending their school of origin, but a local school in their attendance area, Districts must provide homeless students with transportation that is comparable to transportation services provided to other students who are not homeless. Districts are allowed to consider other modes of transportation in addition to school buses. This may include bus tickets or Orca cards for older students, taxies or other forms of transportation for younger students. In some cases parents or guardians may drive their students to and from school and receive mileage reimbursement from their School District. Please speak to your Homeless Liaison for more information on what modes of transportation can be used for your student.
McKinney-Vento also requires schools to eliminate barriers to enrollment and retention. Homeless students often face challenges that other students do not, and in some rare cases schools may have to provide transportation to homeless students, if not providing transportation would pose a barrier to the student’s full participation in classroom and school activities. A common example given to explain this concept, is when a homeless student needs to attend summer school, but the school district does not provide transportation to any of its students attending summer school. If attending summer school is essential to the student’s academic progress, the district may have to provide transportation to summer school to reduce any barriers to the student’s continued enrollment and retention at school.
Each situation is different and will be decided based on what is in the best interest of the student.
16. Is the school required to provide transportation to afterschool or other school related programs?
Schools are required to provide transportation to and from the school of origin. Schools are required to provide homeless students with transportation that is comparable to other students within their local attendance area, and in some rare cases schools are required to provide transportation in unique circumstances where not providing transportation would cause a barrier to the student’s enrollment and retention.
Federal guidance suggests that increasing district commitment to provide homeless students transportation to school, as well as to before-and after-school programs is a step that transportation directors can take to support the transportation needs of homeless children and youth.
It would be best to speak with your local homeless liaison about whether Title I funds can be used to provide transportation to programs other than the school of origin. For more information, please see NCHE’s brief Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness under Title I, Part A.
17. Is the school required to help me find housing?
No, but the homeless liaison will give the family contact information or referrals for resources in the community that can help you locate housing. The homeless liaison can also give you referrals to health, mental health, dental and other appropriate services in the community. The Washington Information Network (WIN) is a clearinghouse for many resources in the community. To reach the WIN dial 211. If you would like to know the number of your regional call center please visit the 211 contact website.
18. Can my child participate in extra-curricular activities?
Yes, children and youth experiencing homelessness can participate in extracurricular activities. If it is not possible to pay for fees associated with extra-curricular activities, these fees should be waived or paid by the school district. Speak to your school district’s homeless liaison about getting these fees waived.
19. My child has special education needs? Does McKinney-Vento still apply?
Yes. The McKinney-Vento Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act both protect a child with disabilities who is experiencing homelessness. For more information, please see the National Center for Homeless Education’s brief, School Help for Homeless Children with Disabilities: Information for Parents.
20. My question is not answered here or I do not understand some of the answers?
If you would like to comment, submit, or suggest additional questions that you think should appear on this page please feel free to e-mail PSESD@waseh.org. If you have questions about McKinney-Vento or clarification about how McKinney-Vento works, the National Center for Homeless Education has a helpline that you can call at 1-800-208-2145 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need immediate assistance with a homeless education issue it is best to contact your local liaison (click here for the liaison list), but if you cannot reach the liaison please contact the State coordinator, Melinda Dyer, at (360) 725-6050 or email@example.com.
Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness Brochure
National Center on Homeless Education Parent Booklet
Project Learn Factsheet – Project LEARN (Lawyers Education Access Resource Network) is an initiative of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, designed to ensure children who are homeless have a stable school life. Please click here for more information.
The answers on this page were compiled from the following sources: The National Center for Homeless Education, The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, The Department of Education, and The Mckinney-Vento Act.
The information on WASEH.org is provided to help you understand how the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act (“McKinney-Vento”) generally works. Use of and access to WASEH.org including, links, e-mail links, or any information provided on WASEH.org is not considered legal advice, which is when you contact a lawyer and the lawyer applies the law to your specific situation. If you want to speak with a lawyer, please click here for information on how to get legal help in Washington or contact the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty at (202) 638-2535.