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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Guidance on Homeless and Foster Care Student Data Collection

This guidance is intended to provide Homeless Education Liaisons, Foster Care Points of Contact, and district and school staff assigned the Homeless and Foster Care Student data collection role with information regarding the process.

When should homeless and foster care students be reported?

  • At the point when he/she arrives to enroll in the district as a new student, or when district staff learn that an already enrolled student has become homeless or placed in foster care.
  • Only students enrolled in the district should be entered (do not enter a student who is sheltered/placed in the district and transported back to his/her school of origin in another district).
  • In addition, students whose homelessness or foster care placement spans school years will need to reentered in subsequent years.
  • This data collection is cumulative and on-going for each school year. Though the data is not certified and submitted until the end of the school year (usually July), it is important to have it up-to-date on October 1st.

For Districts and Schools on SIF:

  • Your Student Information System (SIS) displays homeless and foster care flags. These flags should be selected whenever a student becomes homeless or enters foster care.
  • If a student becomes homeless, select the homeless flag.
    • You will then be prompted to select the dwelling arrangement (Sheltered, Doubled-up, unsheltered, or hotel/motel).
    • You will be further prompted to indicate whether the student is also unaccompanied (Yes, No).
  • If the student has been placed in foster care (students in 24-hour, out-of-home care, away from parent/guardian, and for whom DCF has care and placement responsibility), select the foster care flag.
    • There are no further prompts.
  • The next time SIF runs the data will be transferred to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) automatically.
  • End-of-year certification will still need to done in the security portal but all the district's/school's data should be entered and ready for a review.
  • SIF will not update DESE data once a student has been reported as homeless or in foster care. This allows the district/school to use the SIS to notate the student's most current status without impacting the data required by the US Department of Education (USED).
    • Remember a homeless student that becomes housed during the school year retains the right to enrollment and transportation for the remainder of the school year.

For Legacy Districts and Schools (not on SIF):

  • Your homeless and foster care students should be reported directly in the security portal.
  • For homeless students enter the dwelling arrangement at the time of identification and select Y (yes) or N (no) for unaccompanied youth.
  • Please remember that it is important to have data up-to-date on October 1st.

Accessing the Homeless and Foster Care application in the security portal:

  • You must be assigned the Homeless and Foster Care Student Application role by the school district's Directory Administrator. See Directory Administrator page for further information.
  • Once you are assigned the role, Homeless and Foster Care Students will appear on your application list.

Entering Data in the Homeless and Foster Care Student Application:

  1. From the first screen of the application select your organization or district from the dropdown menu, select the school year and click on Next.
  2. On the Add/Update screen select homeless or foster care.
  3. For foster care students:
    • enter the foster care student's SASID number;
    • select his/her grade; and
    • click on Add Foster Care Student.
  4. For homeless students:
    • enter the homeless student's SASID number;
    • select his/her grade;
    • select the dwelling arrangement (Primary Night Time Residence) —
      • Shelter,
      • Doubled-up (sharing the housing of others due to loss housing, economic hardship),
      • Unsheltered (cars, parks, campgrounds, abandoned buildings, and substandard/inadequate housing)' or
      • Hotels/motels;
    • Unaccompanied youth — click on Yes or No; and
    • Click on Add Homeless Student

Note: It is possible that a student was both homeless and placed in foster care during the school year. That student should be entered in both categories and will appear on both lists.

Once a student is entered:

  • The student will appear on the list of reported students on your Add/Update screen.
  • The Edit function is for correcting any data entry errors. For example, should numbers in the SASID be transposed. The dwelling arrangement should not be updated in the security portal unless it is missing or erroneous. Districts are not asked to "track" the changes in housing status.
  • The delete function is used only if a student is erroneously entered.
  • Do not delete or update students in the security portal if they become permanently housed or leave foster care. The data collection effort needs to be a cumulative record of all homeless and foster care students enrolled in the district for any given school year.

To close out the school year:

The Certify/Submit function is enabled when it is time to close out data entry for a school year; usually June through mid-July. This function allows districts to review and certify the accuracy of the data and finalize and submit it.

  1. Review the data as it appears on each list.
    • Correct any missing or inaccurate data.
    • Remember for homeless students the reported dwelling arrangement should be where the student was at the time he/she was first identified.
  2. Click on the certify checkbox to confirm the data is accurate.
    • You will not be able to complete this step if there is missing data.
  3. Click on the Submit button.
    • Once the data has been certified/submitted, no more students can be entered. Should the Certify/Submit function be erroneously engaged, please contact us and we will manually reverse the designation.
    • A district that has not enrolled or identified any homeless or foster care students must still Certify/Submit its data, and by doing so, certifies that no homeless or foster care students were enrolled.
    • Once the school year closes, the data is reset. Therefore, students whose homelessness or foster care placements span school years must be reentered in the subsequent school year (i.e., a student who is homeless in June needs to be reentered with their new grade and Primary Night Time Residence in September if that student remains homeless.)

For questions on submitting homeless or foster care student data please contact Sarah Slautterback, Homeless Education State Coordinator at 781-338-6330 or

Last Updated: June 1, 2018

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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