Identifying Students Eligible for McKinney- Vento

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. School personnel are encouraged to help identify students, as cases occur, who are in situations of homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires by law that schools identify students experiencing homelessness so that they can coordinate with other entities and agencies to provide them with their McKinney-Vento rights and services.

Identifying students that are by definition homeless can be a tricky situation as the word "homeless" evokes stereotypes. However, using discreet sensitivity and awareness, school faculty and staff can provide assistance and guidance to those who are eligible for the McKinney-Vento services.

Children and youth under the McKinney-Vento Act are those who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. In many cases students, parents or caregivers are asked to describe their living situation when filling out a residency or enrollment form from the school which is sent out once or twice a year.

Housing situations may frequently change for homeless students during the school year. Homeless students may be hard for school staff to identify particularly if the student or family does not inform the school. Front office staff, teachers, aides, school nurses, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and administrators as well as fellow students should understand the situations of homelessness that might indicate a student is lacking permanent house. Some situations to look for include youth who are:

  • sharing the housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or family crisis;
  • living in motel, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds due to lack of adequate alternative accommodations;
  • living in emergency or transitional shelters;
  • awaiting foster care placement; or
  • forced to leave home or run away.

Some students may be afraid of identifying themselves as homeless due to fears of stigma or negative repercussions. It is the responsibility of school faculty and staff to be key members of the school district's McKinney-Vento identification team and notify the school's Local Homeless Education Liaison of eligible students. Common signs that faculty and staff can recognize and help the school's Local Homeless Education Liaison identify students who may be experiencing homelessness include:

  • Attendance and transportation problems
  • Reactions/statements by student, parent or guardian
  • Social and behavioral concerns
  • Lack of continuity of education
  • Poor health/nutrition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of personal space after school

Schools serve as important places for students who are experiencing homelessness to find assistance. Lack of stable housing can be confusing and difficult to explain. Resources are available through local schools and community agencies to help families in these situations, as well as advocate for those who need assistance.

NAECHYHomeless students are frequently eligible for assistance to pay for college. If an identified McKinney Vento student is determined to be unaccompanied, they are automatically eligible to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as an independent student, as they are not in physical custody of a parent or guardian. For more information on FAFSA completion for students that are experiencing homelessness go to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth's website.

For more information on how to connect with your local Homeless Education Liaison, please visit the Michigan Department of Education website.

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luke schroederGuest Author: Luke Schroeder, AmeriCorps VISTA, Capital Area College Access Network

Posted: Nov. 11, 2015 - modified with permission from the Capital Area College Access Network

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