• McKinney-Vento Frequently Asked Questions


    1. Do school districts have the responsibility to identify or locate children and youth experiencing homelessness?

    Yes. Every school district must designate a liaison for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Act requires liaisons to ensure that "homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel and through coordination with other entities and agencies." The purpose of identification is to offer appropriate services to the family, child or youth. Coordination with schools and community agencies is an essential identification strategy, as are professional development, awareness and training activities within school buildings, school districts, and the community.


    2.  Is there a time limit on how long a child or youth can be considered homeless?

    No, there is no specific time limit on homelessness. Whether a child or youth meets the definition of homelessness depends upon the living situation and the individual circumstances. It is a case-specific inquiry. Due to the extremely limited incomes of most families experiencing homelessness (on average, less than half the federal poverty line) and the severe shortage of affordable housing across the country, experiences of homelessness can sometimes last an extended period of time. It is important to distinguish between questions of eligibility (i.e., does the family or youth meet the legal definition of homelessness?) and questions of school selection (i.e., is it the child or youth's best interest to continue attending his or her school of origin?). Families or youth may be homeless for extended periods of time, during the course of which best interest factors may change, depending on specific factors related to their education and housing situation.


    3.  Are children and youth who move in with relatives, friends, or other people covered by the Act?

    Children and youth who are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act. This can include unaccompanied youth who are running away from home, even if their parents state a desire for the youth to return home. Families who share adequate housing on a long-term basis due to preference or convenience would not be covered by the Act.


    4.  What ages does the McKinney-Vento Act cover?

    The McKinney-Vento Act applies to children and youth ages 21 and under, consistent with their eligibility for public education services under state and federal law. State laws vary, but generally provide access to all students until high school graduation or equivalent, or until age 18 (or over in some states). For special education students, federal law provides the right to access services until age 22.


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    11/2009 questions drafted by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP)