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.
Programs for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Washington receives funding each year from the U.S. Department of Education and the Washington State Legislature to support the education of homeless students in school programs. Funding is distributed to LEAs through a competitive grant process. OSPI, as the state educational agency, designates a statewide Education of Homeless Children and Youth Coordinator and a Homeless Student Stability Program Supervisor to provide training and technical assistance, review and create policies and procedures, monitor LEAs for program compliance, provide dispute resolution procedures, to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness are able to attend and fully participate in school.
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.
In 2016, the Washington State Legislature passed the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act, to amend state laws related to improving educational outcomes for homeless students through increased identification services, in-school supports, and housing stability. The resulting Homeless Student Stability Program at OSPI complements the Federal McKinney-Vento program, providing additional support and resources for districts.
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