The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvement Act ensures that homeless children and youth have access to the same free and appropriate public education as other children.

Homeless Youth: The McKinney-Vento Act

On July 22, 1987, the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act became public law. This was the first comprehensive federal law dealing with the problems of homelessness in the United States of America. The Act’s official name is now the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines “homeless children and youths” as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

A family or student is considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento definition if they are in any of these places or situations: 

  • Public or private shelters 
  • Public or private places not designated for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations such as vehicles, parks, motels, campgrounds, etc. 
  • Living with a parent in a domestic violence shelter 
  • Living with relatives or friends due to lack of housing 
  • Living in transitional housing programs 
  • Runaway children (under 18 years of age) and children and youth who have been abandoned or forced out of their home by parents or other caretakers (unaccompanied youth). These children may be in temporary shelters awaiting assistance from social service agencies or may live alone on the street, or move from place to place among family members, friends, or acquaintances 
  • Children of migrant families who lack adequate housing 
  • Children abandoned in hospitals or awaiting foster care

NOTE: Youth awaiting foster care placement include those who are placed in: emergency, interim or respite foster care; kinship care; evaluation or diagnostic centers; or placements for the sole purpose of evaluation. On a case-by-case basis, through coordination between the school and all involved agencies, it can be determined if the youth is awaiting foster care placement. To reach our Foster Care Point of Contact, Mrs. Patricia Rossetti, call 888-997-3352 ext. 114

Know Your Rights

Children and youth experiencing homelessness have a variety of rights & available resources:

  • Receive a free, appropriate public education
  • Enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documents that are normally required for enrollment.
  • Enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents.
  • Enroll in the local school or continue attending your school of origin (the school you attended when permanently housed or the school in which you were last enrolled), if that is your preference and is feasible.

More information from the PA Department of Education on Information for School-Age Youth. 


The following strategies and programs can support students’ academic success: 

  • Access to Head Start and preschool programs administered by the local education agency or within the community
  • Academic support such as tutoring, afterschool programs, and summer programs 
  • Referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health services, and other appropriate services

National, State, Regional and Local Resources:

The Pennsylvania Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness (ECYEH) regional and site coordinators can assist with: 

  • School enrollment/placement 
  • Agency referrals (clothing, food, shelter) 
  • Tracking/transferring school records 
  • Accessing educational programs
  • Interagency problem-solving 
  • Relevant literature related to homelessness 
  • Increasing public awareness on homeless issues 
  • Consultative phone calls to answer school, agency, and shelter questions 

Additional informational materials and websites for guidance via the Pennsylvania Department of Education:

PA Distance Homeless Liason

Mrs. Cathy Talento, Records Coordinator/Homeless Liason, (888) 997-3352 ext. 137