Saturday, January 11, 2014

McKinney Vento

This is just a little "did you know" type post...because 4 months ago, I didn't know.

There is a piece of legislature called the McKinney-Vento Act that pertains to people experiencing homelessness, and in particular, to the education of homeless children.  It has a rather broad definition of homeless:

That Act uses the Illinois statute in defining homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The Act then goes on to give examples of children who would fall under this definition:
  • (a) Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing;
  • (b) Children living in “motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations”
  • (c) Children living in “emergency or transitional shelters”
  • (d) Children “awaiting foster care placement”
  • (e) Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc.)
  • (f) Children living in “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations…”
Here is a bit of what it ensures:

Following the Illinois statute, the McKinney-Vento Act also ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge, allowing children to attend their school of origin (last school enrolled or the school they attended when they first become homeless) regardless of what district the family resides in. It further requires schools to register homeless children even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residence. To implement the Act, States must designate a statewide homeless coordinator to review policies and create procedures, including dispute resolution procedures, to ensure that homeless children are able to attend school. Local school districts must appoint Local Education Liaisons to ensure that school staff are aware of these rights, to provide public notice to homeless families (at shelters and at school) and to facilitate access to school and transportation services.[11]

Here are some ways that it helped us, and our Safe Families child, "B":
  • Our SF child was considered "homeless" and because he was spending nights in our district, was allowed to enroll in our local school.
  • Our local public school had to enroll him with nothing more than one paper showing that we were his temporary guardians.  This was different than enrolling our son, who required a birth certificate, proof of residency, medical, dental and vision checks and an immunization record.
  • The impetus to collect all the needed documents once he was enrolled fell on the SCHOOL- they referred us to providers who would see him immediately and free of charge (rather than having to wait at a public health clinic or find doctors who take State provided insurance).
  • It allowed the school nurse to look up the child's records on the state immunization site to determine what immunizations he had been given.
  • He was considered "at risk" and received special instruction from the learning specialist both during and after school.  
  • It allowed the school to waive lunch, PTO and school fees.

In short...IT WORKED.  My faith in the government was strengthened by this little worked just as it was intended to for our "B."  Enroll him immediately, get him IN school, and then worry about all the paperwork junk later.  I have to give a round of applause to the spirit with which our local school took this on.  They did it because they had to, but they acted like they wanted to.  Every person, from the registrar to the principal, the receptionists, the nurse, his teachers and even his bus driver, welcomed him with open arms and bent over backwards to give him their very best.  There were days where he asked a LOT of them...throwing a child who has never been to school, doesn't know his alphabet, is separated from his family and is used to rough interpersonal relationships into a cozy little suburban school in the middle of October is a bit crazy.  I am sure that I only heard a fraction of his antics (and I heard quite a few...did you know that buses have cameras these days?!)  I am sure there were at least a few glasses of wine consumed in his honor by some of those staff members (there certainly were at our house!).  But they made him feel loved and special, they helped him make HUGE strides in reading, and helped him learn how to be a student.  Come what may in his school career, this kid was given a GREAT first school experience, and the district should be proud.

So here's to you McKinney and Vento...thanks for a great act!


  1. This act has made such a big difference in so many children's lives.

  2. Yup. We were able to enroll our first SF sib set last school year. Unfortunately, one of the grades was full at our school, so one of our SF kids had to be off loaded to a school with room. She got to ride the bus from our home school, though.