Unaccompanied Youth FAQ

Schools and districts have the responsibility to identify and provide resources and services for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness to ensure that they are supported when they are at school and not at school. The Ohio Department of Education’s Each Child, Our Future strategic plan establishes that each student can be supported, healthy, safe, challenged, and engaged while attending Ohio’s schools. By identifying unaccompanied students and offering them supports and services, schools and districts accommodate the needs of the whole child.  

The McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program defines “unaccompanied youth” as a homeless child or youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.” Students of any age can be an unaccompanied homeless youth.   

To be considered an unaccompanied homeless youth, two conditions must be met: 

1. The child or youth’s living arrangement meets the McKinney-Vento’s definition of homeless: lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence due to hardship or similar reason and 

2. The child or youth is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. 

The definition of an "unaccompanied youth" may include children who are awaiting immigration proceedings while residing in local community with a parent, family member, or other adult sponsor. The U.S. Department of Justice has also put together a fact sheet that provides additional information about a district's obligation to enroll and provide services to children during the pendency of any immigration proceedings. School districts can refer children to the district's local homeless education liaison for further consideration and a determination of McKinney-Vento eligibility.  

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 1 in 30 adolescents experience homelessness and are unaccompanied by an adult. It is likely that most schools have at least one unaccompanied youth, but they may not be identified. Unaccompanied youth have unique and exceptional needs that schools and districts can consider when developing a process for identification and implementing systems of supports and wrap-around services.  

General Questions

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General Questions

    What do schools and districts need to do to support unaccompanied youth?

    What do schools and districts need to do to support unaccompanied youth?  

    • Reduce Barriers to Attendance: Federal law requires that schools and districts waive enrollment requirements that are a barrier to attendance. Schools and districts have the opportunity to provide students stability and consistency by reviewing enrollment procedures and requirements.  

    • School Selection: The local liaison can use their relationship with the unaccompanied youth to assist with school selection to know if it would be best for the unaccompanied youth to remain at their school of origin (the district or school the student attended when the hardship occurred or the last school where the student enrolled and attended) or be enrolled in the attendance area school (the district or school where the student is resting their head at night). 

    • Needs Assessment: The needs of an unaccompanied youth may be unclear and schools and districts can ensure that they meet those needs by conducting a needs assessment with the unaccompanied youth.  

    • Records Transfer: Federal law requires that once the unaccompanied student is enrolled and able to attend school, the school or district needs to reach out to the student’s previous school to obtain the necessary paperwork. Through transferring records, schools and districts help to ensure that the student has stability of education while being challenged at school.  

    • Knowledge of Rights: The local liaison can offer additional supports by having a conversation with the unaccompanied student about their McKinney-Vento rights.  

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    What information can personnel listen for to determine if a student qualifies as an unaccompanied youth?

    What can personnel listen for to determine if a student qualifies as an unaccompanied youth? 

    • When trying to determine whether a student is an unaccompanied youth, school and district personnel can have an empathetic conversation with the student and listen for information about the student’s living arrangement(s) to determine if they meet the criteria of an unaccompanied youth. It is important that even when a school or district is making this determination that the student remain enrolled in school.  

    • Fixed: As the student describes where they sleep, liaisons can listen for if they sleep in a building such as a house or shelter, or if they sleep in a more portable situation such as a tent or a camper with wheels.  

    • Regular: Liaisons can also listen for if the student always sleeps in the same place and if the student can access the place at any time (including during the day in case they are sick).  

    • Adequate: Liaisons can listen for if the place where the student sleeps has electricity, hot and cold water, heating and air conditioning and a working bathroom and kitchen.  

    • Unaccompanied: Liaisons can listen for if the student lives with anyone. Sometimes unaccompanied youth live “doubled up” when they live with friends or family members. Even if an unaccompanied youth is living “doubled up” with someone else, they can still be considered homeless because they are living with others due to their hardship. Liaisons can also listen for if the student is living with their parents or legal guardian.  

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    Once a school or district determines a youth is unaccompanied and homeless, what steps do they take?

    Once a school or district determines a youth is unaccompanied and homeless, what steps do they take?  

    • 1. Educational Stability: Federal law requires that schools and districts continue educating the unaccompanied youth even if the host or caretaker does not live within the school district. This empowers schools and districts to provide students stability and consistency that they may lack outside of school.   

    • During the school selection, unaccompanied students experiencing homelessness decide to stay at their school of origin or transfer to a new school.  

    • The School Selection Worksheet helps to guide the conversation between the unaccompanied youth, their support system, and school personnel. Ultimately, the unaccompanied youth has the final decision with school selection.  

    • 3. Connecting Unaccompanied Youth with Resources: Unaccompanied youth have unique needs that schools and districts can help to support by connecting students with community partners when needed. Liaisons may want to reach out to:  

    • Faith-based organizations often have greater flexibility in what they can purchase than schools and districts.  

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    Is there a process to dispute the claim that a student is an unaccompanied youth?

    Is there a process to dispute the claim that a student is an unaccompanied youth?  

    • Federal law requires that schools and districts follow this process if there is an eligibility dispute with the school or district and the unaccompanied youth: 

    • Remain Enrolled: Students must remain enrolled in school throughout the dispute resolution process.  

    • Written Decision: If a school or district determines that a student is not an unaccompanied youth, then they must provide a written decision to the student explaining their decision and the thought process behind it.  

    • Student Appeal: If the student is unsatisfied with the decision, they can appeal the decision and the homeless liaison needs to assist the student with the appeal’s preparation.  

    • Local Determination: The student may appeal to the local level and the school or district personnel will be able to explain their decision.  

    • State Determination: The student can appeal to the state afterwards which gives the school or district personnel the opportunity to explain their decision again.  

    • Final Decision: The decision of the state is final.  

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    What funds can schools and districts use to support unaccompanied youth?

    What funds can schools and districts use to support unaccompanied youth?  

    • General Funds: Schools and districts can use their general funds to support unaccompanied youth. Unaccompanied youth, however, have unique and exceptional needs which will likely require supplemental funds.  

    • Title I Funds: Schools and districts can use Title I funds and the Title I homeless set aside for unaccompanied youth.  

    • McKinney-Vento Grant: Schools and districts can apply for the McKinney-Vento subgrant which is a three-year competitive subgrant. The bidder’s conference typically occurs in the late winter with a Request for Applications published in early March and the deadline for applications is the last week of April.  

    • Emergency Relief Funds: When applicable, schools and districts can use emergency relief funds including  Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I and II  and American Rescue Plan Homeless Youth and Children (HCY) I and II to support the needs of unaccompanied youth.   

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Last Modified: 8/29/2022 2:27:59 PM