Determining Eligibility for Rights and Services Under the McKinney-Vento Act 21st Annual NAEHCY Conference, 2009 Estella Garza, San Antonio TX Homeless Liaison Patricia Julianelle, NAEHCY Legal Counsel (Based on materials from NYS-TEACHS)
Our Agenda Today • The Definition: Who is Covered by the McKinney-Vento Act? • The Process: How do We Apply that Definition to Real Life Situations? • Let’s Practice: Case Studies to Chew On • NCHE: Determining Eligibility for Rights and Services Under the McKinney-Vento Act, available at: www.serve.org/nche/downloads/briefs/ det_elig.pdf
The McKinney-Vento Act • Originally passed in 1987 • Reauthorized in 2002 by NCLB (Title X, Part C) • Main themes: • School stability • School access • Support for academic success • Child-centered, best-interest-based decision making • Protects the educational rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
Keep This in Mind… • Determining eligibility is a case-by-case determination made by examining the living arrangement of each individual student. • Some instances will be clear-cut; others will require further inquiry and then a judgment call. • Determinations of eligibility cannot delay immediate enrollment and the prompt provision of services for MV students.
Eligibility—Who is Covered? • Children who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. • The law lists a number of specific living situations that are covered. • Other situations are also covered, if they are not fixed, regular and adequate.
Specific covered situations • Sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason • Also called doubled-up or couch-surfing • 61% of identified students nationally • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds due to lack of adequate alternative accommodations • Motels: 7% of identified students nationally • Living in emergency or transitional shelters • 24% of identified students nationally
Specific covered situations (cont.) • Awaiting foster care placement • Depends on state and/or local definition • Could include almost all youth or be as restrictive as only those youth in emergency/interim placements • Living in a public or private place not designed for humans to live • Living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings • 8% of identified students nationally
What do Fixed, Regular and Adequate mean? • Fixed • Stationary, permanent, and not subject to change • Regular • Used on a predictable, routine or consistent basis • Adequate • Sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments
Now, the Process • Remember,determining eligibility is a case-by-case determination made by examining the living arrangement of each individual student.
Step 1: Get the Facts • Use a standard enrollment form for all students; this will assist with identifying eligible students. • If the form indicates a possible homeless situation, refer to the liaison. • www.serve.org/NCHE/forum/transl.php • Discuss the living arrangement in a private place and with sensitivity.
Step 1: Get the Facts (cont.) • Let parents and youth know why you are asking about their living situation: not to invade their privacy, but to offer services. • Describe the benefits of eligibility. • Do not contact persons outside the school system to probe for more information regarding the family’s living arrangement. www.serve.org/nche/downloads/briefs/verif_ll.pdf
Step 1: Get the Facts (cont.) • Provide awareness activities for school staff (registrars, secretaries, counselors, social workers, nurses, teachers, security officers, bus drivers, administrators, etc.) • Avoid using the word “homeless” • Describe the living situation instead of labeling it. • What are some good questions to ask parents or youth?
Step 2: Analyze the Facts • Does the student’s living arrangement fit into one of the specific examples of homelessness in the law? • If so, the student is eligible. • If not • Does the student lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence? • If so, the student is eligible.
Step 2: Analyze the Facts (cont.) • Use the information/questions contained in the Determining Eligibility brief to assist in answering these questions.
What if we Disagree? • If a dispute over eligibility or enrollment arises, the student must be admitted immediately to the school of choice (school of origin or local school) while the dispute is being resolved. • The parent/guardian/unaccompanied youth must be given written notice of the dispute and how to access the dispute process. • The parent/guardian/youth must be referred to the liaison for assistance with the dispute process. • Liaisons must ensure unaccompanied youth are enrolled immediately, even if there’s a dispute.
Case Study: Calvin Dad and Calvin have been doubled-up with grandma for a year and a half, since Dad and Mom split up. Dad has not tried to look for housing, because he believes he and Mom will get back together.
Calvin Questions • Initially, how could the liaison have gotten information about Calvin’s situation? What questions might be relevant? • Is Calvin eligible? Would your answer change if he and Dad still live with with grandma a year later? Would your answer change if you’ve given Dad info on rental housing, and he said he wasn’t interested? • Would your answer change if Dad is contributing to the rent?
Doubled-Up Help • Legislative wording: “Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason” • Questions: • Why did the family/youth move in together? Crisis or by mutual choice for mutual benefit? • How permanent is the living arrangement intended to be? • Is the living arrangement fixed, regular, and adequate? • See pages 2-3 of the Determining Eligibility brief for a discussing of shared housing; use questions on pages 5-6, also.
Case Study: Dan Over the summer, Dan’s mother sought an inter-district transfer for Dan, age 15, to attend your district. The transfer was denied. In August, Dan left his mother’s home in a neighboring school district. He is staying with his friend’s family and states that he plans to stay there all year.
Dan Questions • Initially, how would you get information about Dan’s situation? What questions would you ask, to whom? • What facts would lead you to find Dan eligible? Are there facts that would lead you to find him not eligible? • How would you handle Dan’s situation?
Case Study: Amanda Amanda, age 16, has arrived in your school district to live with her grandfather. Grandfather does not have custody of Amanda and does not intend to seek legal guardianship or custody. To complicate matters, Amanda’s father just called you to demand you not enroll Amanda in school. He wants her to come home. He says Amanda ran away and Grandfather is actually an older male boyfriend. Amanda says her father kicked her out.
Amanda Questions • Initially, how would you get information about Amanda’s situation? What questions would you ask, to whom? • Is Amanda eligible under these facts? What if she has her own room at Grandfather’s home, and he buys her a car to drive to school? • What if Grandfather had hired a lawyer to explore getting custody of Amanda? • If Amanda were, in fact, living with a boyfriend instead of a relative, what difference would that make?
Unaccompanied Youth Help • McKinney-Vento defines unaccompanied youth as a homeless youth “not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian”. • There is no lower age limit for unaccompanied youth; the upper age limit (as with all McKinney-Vento eligible students) is your state’s upper age limit for public education. • A youth can be eligible regardless of whether he/she was asked to leave the home or chose to leave; remember that sometimes there is “more than meets the eye” for youth’s home life situations.
Case Study: Felisha Felisha, a 19 year old special education student, has enrolled in school. In the beginning of the school year, she and her dad lived with her grandmother. Felisha and dad do not get along. After about a month, Felisha left the home on her own, because the house was too crowded. She now lives with a friend and is sharing the costs of an apartment. She works part time. Is Felisha homeless?
Step 3: Call for Back-up • Your State Coordinator • National Center on Homeless Education www.serve.org/nche • NAEHCY The 100 Most Frequently Asked Questions on the Educational Rights of Children and Youth in Homeless Situations: www.naehcy.org/faq.html • U.S. Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youths (EHCY) Program, www.ed.gov/programs/homeless/index.html
Additional Identification Strategies • Coordinate with community service agencies, such as shelters, street outreach programs, soup kitchens and food banks, drop-in centers, housing and social service agencies, teen parent programs, CPS, GLBTQ groups, juvenile probation and juvenile justice, and public health departments. • Provide outreach materials and posters where there is a frequent influx of low-income families and youth in high-risk situations, including motels, campgrounds, parks, convenience stores and laundromats.
Identification Strategies (cont.) • Make special efforts to identify preschool children, including asking about the siblings of school-aged children. • Develop relationships with dropout prevention and recovery programs, truancy officials and other attendance officers. • Collaborate with special education and IDEA Part C child find activities. • Enlist youth to help spread the word.
Why It Matters “…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.” Carrie, LeTendre Scholar, 2002