Homeless Kids and School
A Struggle, but Worth It.
There are 1.3 to 1.6 Million homeless kids on the streets of America in an average year. It is not uncommon for many of these kids to go to school while living in cars, vans, in encampments, shelters, motels, hotels or with relatives while their parents (usually a single parent mom) are toughening it out with no stable place to call home. Often they do live with that parent in conditions far less than desirable, but homeless nevertheless.
For the most part, homeless kids have at least one shepherding parent and the entire family is homeless. According to state departments of education across the country, 35% of homeless children lived in shelters, 34% were in group situations with family or friends, and 23% were in motels or other places in 2000. Thankfully, these youngsters are guaranteed an education by this country, the good old USA.
The McKinney-Vento Act applies to all children and youth who do not have a fixed, regular and adequate residence, including children and youth who are: staying with friends or relatives because they lost their housing; awaiting foster placement; or living in emergency or transitional shelters, motels, domestic violence shelters, campgrounds, inadequate trailer parks, cars, public spaces, abandoned buildings and bus/train stations.
Children and youth in homeless situations have the right to:
Go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there;
Choose between the local school where they are living, the school they attended before they lost their housing, or the school where they were last enrolled;
Enroll in school without proof of residency, immunizations, school records, or other documents;
Get transportation to school;
Get all the school services they need;
Be free from harassment and isolation; and
Have disagreements with the school settled quickly.
The following story clipped in part from a news article (read the rest here) tells about the situation in only one state, Illinois.
School system helps eliminate barriers between homeless, education
Sunday, August 5, 2007
By Holly Wagner
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
BETTY HAS BEEN living in Madonna House since October with her two teenage children. During the month she spent in jail, she lost her apartment and her children stayed with a relative.
“I think it’s been a struggle for them somewhat,” said shelter director Audra Hampton. “It’s sometimes embarrassing at that age. They don’t want anyone to know they are here. … But they seem settled.”
The youngsters have had to adjust to several transitions in the past year, but missing school has not been one of them. Under federal law, all children – whether they have a permanent address – are guaranteed an education.
This summer, the Illinois State Board of Education is working with the state’s shelters to eliminate the barriers homeless students face in getting access to public education.
ISBE data indicates 18,000 students in the state were homeless in 2006. Based on the 750,000 students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, ISBE estimates that number is probably closer to 60,000.
The Regional Office of Public Education in Adams and Pike counties collects data on homelessness from its districts to forward to ISBE. During the last school year, the two counties reported that the homeless they served totaled eight in preschool, 45 in elementary school, four in middle or junior high school and nine at high school level, according to Jim Kaiser, the ROE’s school improvement coordinator.
“Every year the number has been going up,” he said. “We’re doing a better job of identifying those kids.”
These students face a range of problems, from finding a way to get to school, to having the appropriate clothing and finding a quiet place to study.
Each school district appoints a go-to person to work with the homeless. Quincy High School Principal Terry Ellerman is the liaison for Quincy schools.
Homeless families don’t always draw attention to their situation, Ellerman said. Sometimes the district finds out about homelessness from a social service agency or identifies it when a student registers.
School secretaries are often the front line in making that determination, noting when the address of a shelter, hotel or a post office box is given or no one is listed as a guardian.
“Home, if we were fortunate, is a place that provides stability in our thinking, it’s a place to feel safe,” said Assistant Superintendent Christie Dickens, formerly principal of Dewey School. “When a child is missing that element, there are a lot of things that could transpire … a lot of fearfulness and behaviors that are associated with that.
“Certainly that child would be somebody we would keep an attentive watch on to see if they needed some emotional support.”
The district helps match homeless families with social service agencies, Dickens said. One of Betty’s children is receiving counseling at Transitions of Western Illinois.
The district liaison helps these students enroll, whether they have transcripts from past schools; makes sure transportation does not prevent them from attending; and helps them to resolve disputes with the school system.
(Please read the rest of the story at the link above)