Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:
Educating Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness
The California Department of Education (CDE) would like to remind local educational agencies (LEAs) of the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. EHCY is the key piece of federal legislation pertaining to the education of over 270,000 California children and youth experiencing homelessness from early childhood through high school graduation. Every LEA is required to implement these provisions. EHCY’s key themes are identification, school access and stability, and support for educational success.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:
- Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
- Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters
- Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
- Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above.
It is important to remind LEAs that children and youth experiencing homelessness must receive the full protections and services provided under all federal and state laws, as it relates to homeless education. Homeless children and youth have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths. LEAs must review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices, or policies that may act as a barrier to the identification, enrollment, attendance, or success of homeless children and youths in school.
LEAs and their homeless liaisons are required to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination activities with other entities and agencies. In order to ensure students in homeless situations are identified, homeless liaisons, in collaboration with school and LEA personnel, should:
- Post notices of the rights of homeless students in the community in places where families and youth in homeless situations are likely to see them, including schools, shelters, public libraries, and soup kitchens, in a manner and form understandable to the parents and guardians and unaccompanied youths;
- Include a housing questionnaire as part of the LEA’s enrollment packet to screen for possible eligibility;
- Raise awareness and offer professional development opportunities throughout LEAs and the community of the definition of homeless, and the rights provided to eligible students; and,
- Share information about McKinney-Vento eligibility and services in student handbooks, on the LEA’s web site, and in brochures.
The CDE has “You Can Enroll in School” homeless education posters on its Resources for Homeless Children and Youths web page for LEAs to download in a variety of languages. LEAs can also contact the Integrated Student Support and Programs Office to request posters in English and Spanish.
If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the Integrated Student Support and Programs Office, by phone at 866-856-8214 or by email at HomelessED@cde.ca.gov.
Integrated Student Support and Programs Office
Improvement and Accountability Division
California Department of Education