- Foster Care
- Dispute Resolution
- Immediate Enrollment
- Full Participation
- Open Enrollment
- Post Secondary Planning and Financial Aid
- Preschool and Early Childhood
- Private School Students
- School Selection, School of Origin, Best Interest Determination
- Special Education
- Tips for Teachers and Staff
- Title I, Part A
- Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
- Athletics and Extracurriculars
- Disaster Response
On December 10, 2016, the phrase “awaiting foster care placement” was deleted from the definition of homelessness in the McKinney-Vento Act. Please see DPI's Out-of-Home Care webpage for more information.
Parents or guardians of students experiencing homelessness or unaccompanied homeless youth have the right under McKinney-Vento to dispute decisions made by the district regarding eligibility, school selection, or enrollment. [42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(E)] In the event of a dispute, the district must:
- Immediately enroll the student in the school in which enrollment is sought pending final resolution of the dispute, including all appeals. While the appeals are pending, the student has the right to full participation in school activities.
- Provide the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied homeless youth with a written explanation of any dispute-related decisions, including the right to appeal such decisions. The written explanation must include the reason for the determination and must be in a manner and form understandable to the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied homeless youth.
- Refer the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied homeless youth to the homeless liaison who is required to assist parents, guardians, or unaccompanied homeless youth with the district’s dispute resolution process.
- Follow a clear process for the dispute and appeal process including having more than one level of appeal before unresolved disputes are sent to DPI.
If a dispute is not resolved after going through the district outlined dispute resolution process, the parent or unaccompanied youth may send a request for resolution to the Superintendent’s Office of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Disputes involving homeless issues follow the Chapter PI 1 complaint resolution process.
Unresolved disputes should be sent to:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
P.O. Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841
Homeless liaisons must ensure children and youth experiencing homelessness enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term "homeless children and youths" includes children and youths who are:
- sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason;
- living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
- living in emergency or transitional shelters;
- abandoned in hospitals;
- living in a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
- living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and/or
- migratory children living in any of the circumstances described above (42 U.S.C. § 11434a(2)).
Transitional Housing: A transitional housing program is one in which the families or children receive case management, rent subsidies, and is time-limited. Families can be in a transitional housing program for up to two years
Sharing Housing/“Doubled Up”: Children and youth who are sharing the housing of others (friends, relatives, or others) due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason are homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. This is commonly referred to as “doubled up” and can include unaccompanied youth who are leaving home, even if their parents state a desire for the youth to return home.
Domestic Violence Shelter: If an adult and accompanying children are living with others or in a domestic abuse shelter as a result of domestic violence, the children are considered homeless. For more information, visit: https://nche.ed.gov/domestic-violence/
Immigration/Children Recently Arrived to the U.S.:
USDE Fact Sheet: Educational Services for Immigrant Children and Children Recently Arrived to the United States
Immigrant Students: How Schools Can Help
Resources from the National Center for Homeless Education:
Identifying Children and Youth in Homeless Situations
- is unable to produce records normally required for enrollment (such as previous academic records, records of immunization and other required health records, proof of residency, proof of guardianship, birth certificates),
- has missed application or enrollment deadlines during a period of homelessness,
- has outstanding fees or fines. (Section 722(g)(3)(C)(i); see also 722(g)(1)(H)).
The enrolling district must immediately contact the district last attended by the student to obtain relevant academic or other records. (Section 722(g)(3)(C)(ii)). The homeless liaison must assist the family or youth in obtaining relevant health records after enrollment, if needed.
The district should ensure that students experiencing homelessness are attending classes and participating fully in school activities immediately upon a student being identified as eligible for McKinney-Vento. School districts must have procedures to ensure that students experiencing homelessness do not face barriers to accessing academic and extracurricular activities, including magnet schools, summer school, career and technical education, advanced placement, online learning, and charter school programs (Section 722(g)(1)(F)(iii)).
Removing Barriers to Online Enrollment for Students Experiencing Homelessness
Homeless liaisons should be aware of the open enrollment window and the Alternate Open Enrollment Application.
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires that school counselors work with youth experiencing homelessness to prepare and advise them in postsecondary planning. (Section 722(g)(1)(F)(ii))
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Financial Aid Information:
- Under the McKinney-Vento Act, homeless liaisons are required to ensure that unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) are informed of their status as independent students for the FAFSA and provide assistance to verify students’ homelessness.
- Homeless liaisons should work with school counselors to inform all UHY that they can apply for financial aid as an independent student. Filing as an independent student allows the youth to complete the FAFSA without parental information.
- Unaccompanied homeless youth are automatically considered independent students and must be determined to be unaccompanied and homeless after July 1 of the current school year if they are applying for FAFSA for the following school year.
- For example: A student identified as homeless after July 1, 2019 can complete the FAFSA as an independent student to receive financial aid for the 2020-2021 school year.
Higher Education Resources:
NAEHCY Higher Education Helpline: 855-446-2673
NAEHCY Higher Education resources
NAEHCY Information on who can make a determination of UHY status for a student experiencing homelessness when completing the FAFSA.
Sample Letter to Determine Independent Student Status
SchoolHouse Connection Youth Scholarship Program
NAEHCY Scholarship Program
NCHE Scholarship Information
Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Program (WEOP) Scholarship Information
The McKinney-Vento Act includes “preschool” in its definition of school of origin. Young children enrolled in district-administered preschool or early childhood programs have rights under McKinney-Vento. [42 U.S.C.§11432(g)(3)(I)(i)]
- Children experiencing homelessness can remain in the preschool they attended when permanently housed, or the preschool in which they were last enrolled, if that is in their best interest.
- Preschool students experiencing homelessness have the right to receive transportation to preschool (even if preschool transportation is not typically provided), and transportation continues for as long as the child is homeless, and until the end of the academic year in which the child moves into permanent housing.
- The McKinney-Vento Act applies to Head Start programs that are administered by school districts.
- Young children experiencing homelessness should be given preference on waiting lists for district-administered programs, including Head Start.
District liaisons are encouraged to ask families about non-school-age children during enrollment in order to make referrals to community or district-administered programs.
Preschool and Early Childhood Resources:
Preschool Research, Rights, and Resources
Early Childhood Resources
Practical Strategies to Serve Young Children Experiencing Homelessness
Is my Early Childhood Program a McKinney-Vento “Preschool” flowchart
Only public school districts are required to comply with the McKinney-Vento Act. Individual private schools may determine how they will assist a homeless family or unaccompanied youth. The McKinney-Vento Act does not apply to schools that are entirely privately funded. Therefore, private schools are not required to allow children who become homeless to continue to attend or to provide transportation. (NAEHCY FAQ)
School of origin:
School of origin is defined as “the school that a child or youth attended when permanently housed, or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled, including a preschool” [42 U.S.C.§11432(g)(3)(I)(i)].
When a child or youth completes the final grade level served by their school of origin, the school of origin includes the designated receiving school at the next grade level for all feeder schools (such as when an elementary school feeds into a middle school). (Section 722(g)(3)(I)(ii)).
Homeless liaisons must make school placement determinations on the basis of the “best interest” of the homeless child or youth based on student-centered factors. (Section 722(g)(3)(B)). Using this standard, a school district must –
- Continue the child’s or youth’s education in the school of origin for the duration of homelessness, and for the remainder of the academic year even if the child or youth becomes permanently housed during an academic year; or
- Enroll the child or youth in any public school that non-homeless students who live in the attendance area in which the child or youth is actually living are eligible to attend. (Section 722(g)(3)(A)).
Best Interest Determination:
Homeless liaisons should presume that keeping a student in their school of origin is in the student’s best interest, except when doing so is contrary to the request of the student or their parent/guardian. (Section 722(g)(3)(B)(i)). When determining best interest, school districts should consider student-centered factors, including factors related to the impact of mobility on achievement, education, health, and safety of children and youth experiencing homelessness; and the school placement of siblings.
The McKinney-Vento Act applies to students receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) the same way it applies to other students.
Districts must immediately enroll students with IEPs and provide services comparable to those described in the previous IEP. A district can either adopt the existing IEP or implement a new IEP during this time. (20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(2)(C)(i)).
When a student loses housing and needs transportation to and from their school of origin, IDEA funds should be used to provide transportation if transportation is listed as a related service in the student’s IEP. If it is not listed in the student’s IEP, transportation should be funded in the same manner as that of other students experiencing homelessness.
For many students experiencing homelessness, school is the only place of stability in their lives. Teachers play a crucial role in creating a classroom environment that is safe and supportive for all students, especially those who are highly mobile and have experienced the trauma that often accompanies homelessness. Teachers are just some of the staff that interact with students experiencing homelessness on a daily basis. Training and awareness is important for all staff including: school nutrition, transportation staff, school nurses, enrollment staff, and athletics directors.
Tips for Teachers and Staff
School of origin is defined as the school that a child or youth attended when permanently housed, or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled, including a preschool [42 U.S.C.§11432(g)(3)(I)(i)].
If a student continues in the school of origin but is living in an area served by another district, the two districts must agree upon a method to share the responsibility and costs for providing the student with transportation to and from the school of origin. If the districts cannot agree upon a method, the responsibility and costs for transportation should be shared equally. (Section 722(g)(1)(J)(iii)(II)).
Visit the DPI Example Forms webpage for samples of transportation agreements and related documents
A child who is experiencing homelessness and attending any school in a district is eligible for Title I services. This includes any school operating a schoolwide program, a targeted assistance program and any non-Title I served schools. Districts are required to reserve a sufficient amount of their Title I funds to provide comparable supplementary academic and support services to students experiencing homelessness who may be enrolled at any time during the school year.(Every Student Succeeds Act, 20 U.S.C. §6313(c)(3)(A)). Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, all LEAs must reserve Title I, Part A funds to support children and youth experiencing homelessness. Please see this Title I, Part A Homeless Reservation Guidance from DPI for further information.
Title I, Part A and Students Experiencing Homelessness
Using Title I Funds
The McKinney-Vento Act defines unaccompanied homeless children and youth as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. Unaccompanied homeless youth and children include young people who have been kicked out of their homes, run away from home, and/or have been abandoned by parents or guardians. Youth who refuse to live at home are still considered to be experiencing homelessness if their living situation meets the definition under the McKinney-Vento Act.
Unaccompanied homeless youth often face unique barriers in enrolling and succeeding in school. These barriers may include school attendance policies, credit accrual, and legal guardianship requirements. Without a parent or guardian to advocate for them and exercise parental rights, UHY may be denied enrollment and remain out of school for extended periods of time. UHY may not understand their educational rights or know how to acquire this information. Given their vulnerability to not graduating from high school on time or at all, special attention and support should be provided to this important subgroup of homeless youths.
- If a student is 18 or over, they do not need a guardian to authorize educational decisions. Although the student is considered an adult in Wisconsin for legal purposes, the McKinney-Vento Act still requires that the homeless liaison assist with educational issues.
- Students under the age of 18 are considered minors and therefore cannot make educational decisions for themselves. The homeless liaison may assist the student in identifying an appropriate caregiver (if the student is living with their grandmother, their grandmother is an appropriate caregiver), or in making educational decisions for the student if a parent/legal guardian is unable or unwilling. A caregiver is not considered a legal guardian. The parent is the legal guardian for students under 18, even if the student is not living with them. Parents have the right to receive educational records until the student turns 18.
School district staff are mandatory reporters under State Statute in §.118.175 (2). Staff must notify their local Department of Health and Family Services if a student under the age of 18 is living alone or with someone other than a parent/guardian or designee.
NCHE Sample Caregiver Form
All unaccompanied homeless youth and children attending school, no matter their age, should be receiving assistance in making educational decisions from the district’s homeless liaison.
NCHE Resources on UHY:
Supporting the Education of Unaccompanied Students Experiencing Homeless
Enrolling Students on Their Own
Students Living with Caregivers
Partnering to Support Educational Success for Runaway and Homeless Youth
Maximizing Credit Accrual
Sex Trafficking of Minors
Homelessness can create barriers to participation in extracurricular activities. Students experiencing homelessness may face barriers such as: not meeting residency requirements; lacking a birth certificate, proof of physical examinations, or other documents normally required prior to participation; and may not be able to pay for equipment or fees. The McKinney-Vento Act provides legal rights and support to help ensure that students experiencing homelessness can participate fully in extracurricular school activities. If the lack of access to transportation is a barrier to extracurricular activities for a student, a district would be required to provide this student with transportation to or from extracurricular activities. (Non-Regulatory Guidance)
Guidance from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) regarding eligibility for students experiencing homelessness:
- The WIAA has a waiver process for students with extenuating circumstances who move, which includes students experiencing homelessness.
- Once the homeless liaison identifies a student experiencing homelessness, they should contact the athletic director if the student wants to be involved in athletics and/or extracurricular activities.
- The athletic director will meet with the student about the waiver process and collect all forms and documentation.
- It is imperative that the homeless liaison work with the athletic director to verify homeless status, especially when working with an unaccompanied homeless youth who may not be able to provide documentation from family members.
WIAA wants to find ways to make students eligible to participate in athletics that complies with member rules and meets legal requirements. This may mean that a student begins participating at the junior varsity level until the waiver process is complete and varsity level participation is approved.
See the Residence and Waiver section of the WIAA website for more information.
Students who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence due to disaster (earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, chemical explosion, terrorist attack, etc.) are considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. McKinney-Vento status does not consider the income of a family—only the living situation. Displaced students are entitled to the same legal protections and services as other students experiencing homelessness. A family with financial means may not need the same services as families with limited financial means, but they have the right to remain in the school of origin. Other services would be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of each student.
For more information, visit the NCHE webpage on disaster response or disaster preparedness, response, and recovery resources from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)
In Spring 2018, DPI applied for and received Temporary Emergency Impact Aid (EIA) funds and Assistance for Homeless Children and Youth (AHCY) funds through the U.S. Department of Education. For further information, please visit: https://dpi.wi.gov/homeless/disasterrelief or https://www.ed.gov/disasterrelief.