Homeless Children & Youth Liaison

JTASD Homeless Liaison:  Mary K. Lesisko


Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, reauthorized by Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act, ensures educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness.


The McKinney-Vento Act states, "local educational agencies will designate an appropriate staff person, who may also be a coordinator for other federal programs, as a local educational agency liaison for homeless children and youth." This person has the following responsibilities:

  1. Identify homeless children and youth with assistance by school personnel and through coordination activities with other entities and agencies;
  2. Inform parents or guardians of educational rights and related opportunities available to their children and provide them with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children;
  3. Disseminate public notice of the educational rights of homeless students where children and youth receive services under the McKinney-Vento Act (such as schools, family shelters and food pantries);
  4. Mediate enrollment disputes in accordance with the Enrollment Dispute section;
  5. Inform the parent or guardian of a homeless child, youth and any unaccompanied youth, of all transportation options, including to the school of origin, and assist in accessing these transportation services;
  6. Liaisons are required to ensure that unaccompanied youth are immediately enrolled in school pending resolution of disputes that might arise over school enrollment or placement;
  7. Liaisons are required to assist children and youth who do not have documentation of immunizations or medical records to obtain necessary immunizations or necessary medical documentation;
  8. Understand the guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for the education of homeless students and be ready to explain the Basic Education Circular related to homeless education to school district staff;
  9. Get to know the best resources in your community to assist families with referrals for things such as shelter, counseling, food and transportation;
  10. Distribute information on the subject of homeless students and arrange staff development workshops and presentations for school personnel, including office staff;
  11. Provide standard forms and information about enrollment procedures and key school programs to each shelter in your district;
  12. Become familiar with the various program materials that are available from PDE;
  13. Collaborate with a school district's special education program to ensure that homeless children who are in need of special education and related services are located, identified and evaluated. This is a requirement under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that highly mobile children with disabilities, including homeless children, be identified and served. Liaisons should also ensure that homeless youth who have or may have disabilities have a parent or a surrogate parent to make special education or early intervention decisions. In the case of unaccompanied homeless youth, if a student is disabled or may be disabled and the youth does not have a person authorized to make special education decisions, the following people can be temporary surrogate parents: staff in emergency shelters; transitional shelters; independent living programs; street outreach programs; and state, local educational agency or child welfare agency staff involved in the education or care of the child. This rule applies only to unaccompanied homeless youth;
  14. Identify preschool-aged homeless children by working closely with shelters and social service agencies in their area. In addition, the liaison should inquire, at the time they are enrolling homeless children and youth in school, whether the family has preschool-aged children;
  15. Identify unaccompanied homeless youth while respecting their privacy and dignity by providing specific outreach to areas where eligible students who are out of school may congregate. Appropriate school placement arrangements, based on the child's best interest, should be implemented through the cooperative efforts of the respective chief school administrators. Each case presents a unique set of circumstances and, therefore, requires an individualized response. In all cases, the LEA shall comply, to the extent feasible, with the request made by a parent or guardian regarding school selection, shall attempt to minimize disruptions, and shall maintain the highest possible degree of continuity in programs for all homeless students.