Homeless and Unaccompanied Youth

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					        Homeless and
Unaccompanied Youth:
Financial Aid Outreach

     2009 Fall Conference
      Follow the STARs
     November 1 – 4, 2009
   Awareness of homelessness
   Barriers to education caused by
   Overview of the McKinney-Vento Act and
    definition of homeless
   Awareness of unaccompanied youth
   Ways higher education institutions can
    assist with access and success

Topics for Today
   Lack of affordable housing
   Poverty - mean income is 46% of poverty
   Health problems
   Domestic violence
   Natural and other disasters
   Abuse/neglect/abandonment (unaccompanied

Causes of Homelessness
   10% of all children living in poverty
   1.6-1.7 million youth run away each year
   Over 40% of all children who are homeless are
    under the age of 5
   Nationwide, 794,617 homeless students
    enrolled in public schools in the 2007-08 school
    year - 17% increase over previous year
   Total for North Carolina in 2007-2008: 16,937 –
    25% increase

How Many Children and Youth
Experience Homelessness?

What Works in Defeating
   Enrollment requirements (school records, health
    records, proof of residence and guardianship)
   High mobility resulting in lack of school stability
    and educational continuity
   Lack of transportation
   Lack of school supplies, clothing, etc.
   Poor health, fatigue, hunger, anxiety/trauma
   Invisibility (lack of awareness)
   Prejudice and misunderstanding

Barriers to Education
   Lack of adult/guardian
   Housing challenges
   Basic needs
   Juggling school and employment
   Falling behind in school due to mobility
   School attendance and credit accrual policies
   Concerns of capture by authorities

Barriers to Education for
Unaccompanied Youth
Reauthorized 2002 by No Child Left Behind - Title
 X, Part C

Main themes:
 School stability
 School Access
 Support for academic success
 Child-centered, best interest decision-making

McKinney-Vento Homeless
Assistance Act
Children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate
nighttime residence—
Sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing,
economic hardship, or similar reason [65% of
identified students nationwide]
Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping
grounds due to lack of adequate alternative
accommodations [Motels: 7% of identified students
Living in emergency or transitional shelters [21% of
identified students nationwide]

Who is Covered in McKinney-Vento
Awaiting  foster care placement (not defined in
law; state and local interpretations vary)

Livingin a public or private place not designed
for humans to live

Living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings,
substandard housing, bus or train stations, or
similar settings
Migratory   children living in above circumstances

Eligibility, cont’d
   Shelters are often full; shelters may turn families and
    youth away, or put them on waiting lists
   Shelters do not exist in many suburban and rural areas
   Eligibility conditions of shelters often exclude families
    with boys over the age of 12, or unaccompanied
   Motels may not be available, or may be too expensive
   Youth on their own may fear adult shelters
   Shelters often have 30, 60, or 90 day time limits
   Families/youth may be unaware of alternatives, fleeing
    in crisis, living in over-crowded, temporary, and
    sometimes unsafe environments

Definition: Why So Broad?
• Case-by-case determination
• Get as much information as possible (without
   intimidating the parent or youth)
• Look at the McKinney-Vento definition (specific
   examples in the definition first, then overall

  NCHE’s Determining Eligibility brief is available at

Determining Eligibility
•   Every Local Education Agency – LEA - (school
    district) must designate a liaison for students in
    homeless situations
•   Responsibilities:
    – Ensure that children and youth in homeless
      situations are identified through school and
    – Ensure that homeless students enroll in and have
      full and equal opportunity to succeed in school
    – Make referrals for health, mental health, and other
      services, and ensure that homeless children
      receive Head Start and preschool programs
      administered by school districts

McKinney-Vento Personnel
•   Inform parents, guardians, or youth of educational
    and parent involvement opportunities
•   Post public notice of educational rights
•   Resolve disputes
•   Collaborate and coordinate with community and
    school personnel
•   Assist homeless students in accessing higher
    education resources including assessment tests,
    admissions applications, and financial aid

Homeless Liaisons
  How do I contact homeless liaisons?

  Contact the Office of State Coordinator for the
   Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
   Most State Coordinators maintain updated
   lists of all liaisons (often on the State
   Department of Education web site). See for a list of all
   state coordinators

Contacting Homeless Liaisons
 Definition: child or youth who meets the definition of
  homeless and is not in the physical custody of a
  parent or guardian.
Why aren’t these youth at home?
 Studies have found that 20 to 50 percent of
  unaccompanied youth were sexually abused in their
  homes, while 40 to 60 percent were physically
 Over two-thirds of callers to Runaway Hotline report
  that at least one of their parents abuses drugs or

Unaccompanied Youth: Who Are
Sporadic school attendance due to lack of
 housing, clothing, and other basic necessities
Unawareness of SAT/ACT fee waivers
Lack of support to attend admissions/financial aid
Lack of college access information in shelters,
 foster homes, social service departments, etc.

Barriers to Higher Education
   Unmet basic needs
    ◦ Safety, nutrition, health care, transportation
   No access to parental/guardian financial
   Shame in sharing details of their lives
   Unaware of homeless definition and
    accompanying rights/services
   Unaware of professional judgment providing
    independent status
   Lack of living arrangements during school

Barriers to Higher Education
   Youth who meet the definition of ―independent student‖
    can apply for federal aid without parental income
    information or signature.
   Unaccompanied youth are automatically considered
    independent students.
    ◦ Must be verified as unaccompanied and homeless during the
      school year when application is submitted.
   Youth who are unaccompanied, at risk of homelessness,
    and self-supporting are also automatically considered
    independent students
    ◦ Must be verified as such during the school year in which the
      application is submitted.

Federal Financial Aid
Expands the definition of independent student:
 -Unaccompanied and Homeless youth
 -Youth who are in foster care at any time after
 the age of 13 or older
 -Youth who are emancipated minors or are in
 legal guardianships as determined by an
 appropriate court in the individual’s state of

College Cost Reduction and Access
   Verification must be made by:
     ◦ a McKinney-Vento Act school district liaison
     ◦ a HUD homeless assistance program director or their designee
     ◦ a Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program director or their
     ◦ a financial aid administrator
   Youth in foster care and those who aged out of foster care are also
    automatically considered independent students.
   Youth who have been in foster care at any time after age 13 will
    automatically be considered independent students as of July 1,
   Sample verification template at

   No verification from homeless liaison
    ◦ Was not identified in high school
    ◦ Became homeless after high school
   No advocacy in higher education
    ◦ Gaps in regulations and explanations
   No understanding of “determination”
    ◦ FAFSA questions 56-58 limited
    ◦ Instructions broader, but confusing
   Requested to provide confirmation of
   Suspicions of misrepresentation in order
    to obtain aid
Being Denied Aid
Get the information out to college access and
  social services
Work with ACT/SAT to provide waiver information
  outside of high schools
Provide Webinar trainings for financial aid
  administrators on homeless population
Train homeless liaisons and shelter staff on basic
  college access and financial aid resources
Provide information to unaccompanied youth

Ways to Fill the Gaps
   Establish a North Carolina Task Force to
    address college access and success for
    homeless students
   Create a network of higher education
   Identify the gaps in current federal
   Provide resources and training to all parties
   Influence policy to create a pipeline of higher
    education services
   Create a single point of contact in every
    college for homeless students for access and

   Where are the areas of conflict?
   Concerns when faced with determining
    homeless/unaccompanied youth status
   How should they be addressed?
   What has worked well on your campus?
   What information/resources would be
   What do you see as next steps?

   Diana Bowman                Marcia Weston

    ◦ Director                   ◦ Director
    ◦ National Center for        ◦ College Goal Sunday
      Homeless Education           Operations
    ◦ 336-315-7453               ◦ 312-502-7185
    ◦          ◦ marcia.weston@ymca
    ◦         .net