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McKinney Vento--Education of Homeless Children & Youth

The McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students.

Defining Homeless 
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition:

  • Children and youth sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason

  • Children and youth living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations

  • Children and youth living in emergency or transitional shelters

  • Children and youth abandoned in hospitals

  • Children and youth whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc)

  • Children and youth living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations

  • Migratory children and youth living in any of the above situations


The U.S. Department of Education has issued its Non-Regulatory Guidance for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

School Assistance for Children in Kinship Care


Although we may not realize it, many children in kinship care meet the federal government’s definition of homeless and are eligible for special consideration by local schools and school districts under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of No Child Left Behind.


The McKinney-Vento Homeless Act (Section 725) defines "homeless children and youth"         (school age and younger) as:

  1. Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth who are:

  2. Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;

  3. Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, cars, public places, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, camping grounds or similar settings due to the lack of alternative accommodations;

  4. Living in emergency or transitional shelters; abandoned in hospitals; or awaiting foster placement.

  5. Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.

  6. Unaccompanied youth, including any youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, such as runaways; throwaways, and school-age unwed mothers, living in homes for unwed mothers, who have no other housing available.


Special considerations include:

  1. The right to remain enrolled in the school of origin (the school in which a homeless child was last enrolled) to the extent feasible or in the new school where grandparents or other kinship caregivers are located.

  2. Transportation to the school of origin to the extent feasible.

  3. Free school lunch granted immediately with a child being automatically eligible. No application is required.

  4. Immediate enrollment with the right to attend and participate fully in school classes and extra-curricular activities without the need for former school records, proof of guardianship, birth certificates, immunization records, medical records, or proof of residency. Requiring these documents may delay a homeless child's immediate school enrollment.

  5. The right to enrollment in special education by an adult relative with whom the child is living.

  6. Waiver of school fees and provision of supplies related to school classes and extra-curricular programs.

  7. Title IA services in both Title IA and non-title IA schools.

  8. Preschoolers have the same considerations in Head Start programs where available.


Each school district designates a liaison for homeless children to ensure youth are identified and enrolled in appropriate educational services and provided opportunities to succeed. This
person must be contacted to determine a child's eligibility.


The Act's definition of homelessness centers on the student's living arrangement. There are no specific income limits in the definition.  Kinship children may be classified as homeless in three instances:

  1. They could be called "unaccompanied youth," who are youth that are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.

  2. Children whose family is doubled up with relatives or friends due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.

  3. Families who share adequate housing due to cultural preferences or convenience would not be covered by the Act.


Research indicates that changing schools significantly impedes a child’s academic and social growth and can take four to six months for students to recover academically. Many studies have found highly mobile students have lower test scores and overall academic performance compared to peers who do not change schools. By law, school districts are required to provide transportation which allows homeless children to remain in their school of origin if it’s in the child’s best interest and not contrary to the wishes of the parent or guardian.


Families and youth in homeless situations frequently will not identify themselves as such due to the stigma associated with homelessness or because the youth or family does not recognize that the living arrangement would be considered a homeless situation under the McKinney-Vento Act.  

Local Education Homeless Liaison:  

  • Justin Keetch            801-610-8474            Alpine School District

  • Karen Sterling          801-826-5110                      Canyons School District

  • Mary Ann Nielson    801-402-5609                      Davis School District

  • Mitch Nerdin             385-646-4574                      Granite School District

  • Cheri Jacobson       385-646-4678                      Granite School District

  • Nancy Ward              801-567-8278                      Jordan School District

  • Myrna Broschinsky  801-567-8307                      Jordan School District

  • Hilda Lloyd               801-567-8308                      Jordan School District

  • Kelli Kercher             801-264-7400                      Murray City School District

  • Misty Suarez             801-578-8202                      Salt Lake City School District

  • Mike Harmon                        801-578-8140                      Salt Lake City School District

  • Jeff Ojeda                  801-538-7945             Utah State Board of Education

  • Christy Johnson       435-830-5675                      Tooele School District


Local Education Agency List:


Additional Resources:

National Center for Homeless Education   

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Building A Movement to End Homelessness


"Through it all, school is probably the only thing that has kept me going. I know that

every day that I walk in those doors, I can stop thinking about my problems for the next

six hours and concentrate on what is most important to me. Without the support of my

school system, I would not be as well off as I am today. School keeps me motivated to

move on and encourages me to find a better life for myself."

-Former Homeless Student from Charlotte

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