Important Message to Homeless Liaisons
This directory was designed as a resource tool to enable you, as the Local Education Agency/LEA homeless liaison, to become knowledgeable about your role and responsibilities related to services for students experiencing homelessness. Some individuals listed in the directory have served as the liaison for a number of years and may have become quite knowledgeable in the area of assisting these students enroll and gain access to appropriate educational services and other supports toward their success. Other individuals in this directory may be less familiar with this responsibility. Whatever the experience level, your role as homeless liaison is vitally important to these students. It is our hope and intent that this directory will assist you in coordinating services to children and their families experiencing homelessness.
The ECYEH Program is authorized by Title VII, Subtitle B of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, and more recently amended under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (http://www.ed.gov/essa). The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, effective October 1, 2016, and increases state and local/LEA responsibility for the identification, enrollment, stability, and school success of children and youth experiencing homelessness through amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act.
Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program was established to make sure homeless youth have access to a free and appropriate public education while removing barriers that homeless children face. Its goal is to have the educational process continue as uninterrupted as possible while the children are in homeless situations. Some of the other main objectives of the Program are to inform local school districts of their responsibilities to homeless children and youth, to increase awareness about the needs of homeless children, explain current laws and policies, and provide practical tips for working with these vulnerable children and youth.
Homeless Liaison Requirements
Following are the homeless liaison requirements from Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program Non-Regulatory Guidance, Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, July 27, 2016.
- Identification of homeless children and youths
- Preschool-aged homeless children, including clarification that liaisons must ensure that these children and their families have access to and receive services, if eligible, under LEA-administered preschool programs, including Head Start, Pact C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities) and other preschool programs administered by the LEA
- Collaboration and coordination with other service providers, including public and private child welfare and social services agencies; law enforcement agencies; juvenile and family courts; agencies providing mental health services; domestic violence agencies; child care providers; runaway and homeless youth centers; providers of services and programs funded under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; and providers of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing, including public housing agencies, shelter operators, and operators of transitional housing facilities
- Professional development and technical assistance at both the State and local levels
- Removing enrollment barriers, including barriers related to missed application or enrollment deadlines, fines, or fees; records required for enrollment, including immunization or other required health records, proof of residency, or other documentation or academic records, including documentation for credit transfer
- School stability, including the expansion of school of origin to include preschools and receiving schools and the provision of transportation until the end of the school year, even if a student becomes permanently housed
- Privacy of student records, including information about a homeless child or youth’s living situation (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act/FERPA prohibits an LEA from disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records without the consent of a parent or eligible student, unless an exception to FERPA’s general consent rule applies – p. 7, A-6, of the U.S. Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program Non-Regulatory Guidance, July 27, 2016)
- The dispute resolution process
Increasing Your Involvement as Liaison
There are many ways to remove the barriers to education for students experiencing homelessness. Following are existing best practices for maximizing the positive impact of your role as liaison. The benefits can be significant. See the list in the back of this booklet for the regional and/or site coordinator for your area or contact Storm Camara, state coordinator, at the Pennsylvania Department of Education at (717) 772-2066 for further assistance.
Student Homelessness Committee. Many homeless liaisons have developed a special committee of school staff that meets periodically with key shelter and agency personnel to stay abreast of the unmet needs and educational barriers of students experiencing homelessness, professional development opportunities and resources from local organizations, as well as to address challenges through a team approach.
Local Resource Guide. Develop a list of the local homeless liaisons in your area with whom you interact, as well as shelters, housing providers and key agencies that assist families experiencing homelessness. When a family or unaccompanied homeless youth has a need, having current referral information can be invaluable. Your Student Homelessness Committee can help develop and update this resource guide.
Training and workshops regarding student homelessness are imperative. Staff turnover occurs regularly in schools and community agencies, which leaves individuals unprepared to effectively serve families and students experiencing homelessness. In-service training or annual orientation sessions can provide an opportunity to update staff regarding the needs of and services for students experiencing homelessness. Contact your regional and/or site coordinator to assist you in planning or providing a district or regional workshop to meet your needs.
Dissemination of Literature/Resources. Knowledge of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Education policies, and topics such as the definition of homelessness, the importance of school choice/school of origin rights, and knowledge of transportation options are critical to removing barriers to the education of students experiencing homelessness. Request copies of program publications and distribute to building principals, nurses, guidance counselors, office/registration staff, transportation personnel and school administrators. Key Basic Education Circulars should be provided to those with the most interaction with students/families who may be experiencing homelessness, especially school principals and staff that facilitate school registration. Ensure that program posters are displayed in prominent positions throughout all school buildings and administration offices in view of and understandable by parents and students.
Emergency School Supply/Fee Fund. Consider establishing an emergency school supply/fee fund to ensure these students have as normal a school life as possible. Many times funds can be raised through donations from local service groups or through special school activities that can also raise awareness. These funds can be used to help students experiencing homelessness with the costs of school photos, class trips, or any other special school events that require a fee in order to participate.