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McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance

Homeless Education Advisory 2004 - 8: Unaccompanied Youth

This advisory is intended to provide guidance to local school districts and social service providers in Massachusetts regarding the identification, enrollment, attendance, and success in school of unaccompanied youth as required by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act.

Definition: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education defines unaccompanied youth as

  • A youth who is homeless;
  • A youth who is not in the physical custody of a parent, guardian; and
  • A youth not in the custody of a state agency.

This definition includes youth living in runaway shelters, in abandoned buildings, cars, on the street or in inadequate housing, youth denied housing by their families, those who have left home voluntarily, even when their parent/s want them to return home, and youth doubled up with friends or relatives.

For youth who are in the care of the state (Department of Children and Families (DCF)) please see Homeless Education Advisory 2015 - 9: Children and Youth in State Care or Custody.

Identification: Homeless liaisons must strive to identify unaccompanied youth, inform them of their educational rights, enroll them in school, and coordinate the services necessary to ensure their success.

Enrollment: Unaccompanied youth must be immediately enrolled in school like any other homeless student. They may enroll themselves or be enrolled by a parent, non-parent caretaker, older sibling, a caseworker, or the homeless liaison. Unaccompanied youth have the right to remain in either their school of origin or enroll in the school where they are temporarily residing. A school cannot refuse to enroll an unaccompanied youth who does not have a parent or guardian.

Attendance and Success: Unaccompanied youth have the same rights as other homeless students to fully attend and participate in all school activities, classes, educational opportunities, meals, social and athletic events, clubs, teams, and other services. The coordination of services for unaccompanied youth should include programs funded under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. The fact that a student has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may not be used to delay the student's enrollment or attendance, and such IEP shall be promptly implemented.

Dispute Resolution: Should a dispute arise with the district, the homeless liaison must serve as the advocate for an unaccompanied youth. In addition, the youth shall remain in the selected school while the dispute is being resolved.

Policy Review: Policies covering class scheduling, tardiness, absenteeism, flexible school hours, credit-for-work programs, vocational education, MCAS remediation, and course credit must be updated to eliminate barriers to unaccompanied youth succeeding in school.

Unaccompanied youth are entitled to the same educational rights and services, including transportation, under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act as homeless youth accompanied by parents/guardians.



Last Updated: April 5, 2004
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