Good afternoon and thank you for joining the webinar. Today’s webinar is Mckinney-Vento Orientation for New Liaisons. I do want to apologize, it sounds like there was a little bit of confusion about the start time for the webinar as some information that went out said one and some of it said 1:30. It was scheduled to start at 1:30, so I truly appreciate your patience. My name is Ella Deverse and I am the Program Specialist for Mckinney-Vento the Education of Homeless Children and Youth at OSPI.
I have been in this position for about two years and prior to my time at OSPI was the Mckinney-Vento Homeless Liaison for the Aberdeen School District. I spent about two years in that position and while I was there, I had a little bit over 400 students that were eligible for the program and over a hundred of them were unaccompanied youth. Here at OSPI, I help to provide technical assistance and training to the liaisons in districts in Washington State and I’ve probably spoken to quite a few of you. Before we get started I’d like to cover a few housekeeping topics.
While this webinar is targeted at liaisons who are new to the position, much of the information provided will be valuable to liaisons in general. If you are a seasoned liaison or have been doing this for a year or so, the information provided will still be beneficial to you in your work. Second, the webinar will be recorded and posted on our web site. We expect to have it posted by the end of next week and we’ll notify districts through Gov Delivery when this occurs. We will also be posting it in three segments so people can access specific sections easily. We will also be sending out the PowerPoint slides later on this week to participants.
Finally there will be time for questions at the end of the webinar. Please feel free to enter your questions into the Q&A box and if we do run out of time and don’t get to all of the questions we will be providing answers to your questions after the webinar. Please ask questions. That’s one of the reasons I’m here and I’m more than happy to help answer them. So with that it is time to get started. So having been a liaison and working with them daily I have found that there are three common questions that come from new liaisons.
What do I need to do? How do I need to do it? and When do I need to do it? We’re going to help answer these questions by looking at the following: the requirements of the liaison identification of students experiencing homelessness some of the key provisions of the mckinney-vento act forms and resources that are available on our website and a look at the calendar and important times on the school year. so we’re going to start with a very general look at the responsibilities of the liaison under the law.
This is incredibly important for a liaison to know as these provisions exist to ensure that liaisons are providing the required services to children and youths experiencing homelessness. Liaisons are required to ensure that children and youth are enrolled in school and have full access and opportunity to succeed in school. The liaison must identify children and youth experiencing homelessness through outreach and coordination with community agencies and entities. Liaisons must ensure that families children and youth experiencing homelessness have access to and receive educational services for which such families children and youth are eligible.
This includes services such as Head Start and special education. Continuing on, homeless families and homeless children and youth must receive referrals to health care, dental care, mental health, housing services, and other appropriate services when needed. Parents or guardians of homeless children and youth must be informed of educational and related opportunities available to their children and they have to be provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children. Public notice of the educational rights of homeless students must be done must be disseminated in locations frequented by parents and guardians of such children and youth, and unaccompanied youth. This includes schools, shelters, public libraries, and in a manner and form that’s understandable to the parents and the students. And finally, enrollment disputes must be mediated in accordance with the requirements of the Mckinney-Vento act. Parents and guardians and unaccompanied youth must be fully informed of all transportation services.
This includes transportation to and from school of origin and they must be assisted in accessing these services. School personnel must receive professional development and other support. This is training on the identification and the rights of students experiencing homelessness. An unaccompanied youth must be enrolled in school and have opportunities to meet the same challenging state academic standards and they must be informed of their status as independent students and their right to receive verification of the status from the local liaison for federal student aid purposes. Now that we’ve discussed the job requirements of the liaison we can move on to a conversation about eligibility and identification. Since identification is one of the Paramount duties of the liaison is important to understand a definition of homelessness under Mckinney-Vento. The Mckinney-Vento act defines homeless children and youth as a child or youth who lacks a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence. This is a broad definition and is meant to encompass the many ways that a child or youth can experience homelessness.
When considering fixed regular and adequate, consider the following. If the situation is fixed, it’s securely placed. A fixed residence is one that’s stationary, it’s permanent, and it’s not subject to change. A regular living situation is normal or standard. A regular residence is one which is used on a regular, nightly basis so consider whether the child or family can return every night. An adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments.
Does the housing have running water and electricity? Is it overcrowded? Are there health hazards such as mold?
The Mckinney-Vento Act further breaks these categories down into specific situations that could lead to eligibility for services. Sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason. This is commonly known as doubling up and often occurs when families, children and youth move in with friends or relatives. These situations are common and can occur for many reasons, so it is important to note that loss of housing and economic hardship are not the only factors to consider. Similar reason to encompass things such as family turmoil, the inability in ability to care for a child or youth, fleeing from domestic violence, and so on. A vast majority of eligible children and youth live in doubled up situations, living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative adequate accommodations. The important phrase here is “lack of alternative accommodations”.
Do they have anywhere else to go? Is there another feasible and affordable housing situation available to them?
I would also like to point out the mention of trailer parks. Not everyone that lives in a trailer will be eligible. Generally, these situations would be a family living in a travel trailer or RV that is not meant as a permanent housing situation and they happen to be staying in a trailer park. In terms of motels and hotels, oftentimes these students will be eligible for services. Hotels and motels are not meant for permanent habitation and offer very little privacy for families. Additionally, they can be expensive and it may be hard for families to find other housing once they have moved into a hotel. This is due to lack of finances.
We also look at children and youth living in emergency or transitional shelters. This category also includes transitional housing programs if a family is living in a transitional program that requires case management, provides income based rent, and provides transition into a possible permanent situation, they could be eligible. As a side note, section 8 vouchers is not an eligible living situation for eligibility for Mckinney-Vento. Living in a public or private place not designed for regular use as accommodations and living in cars parks abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar settings can qualify a student as well.
Substandard housing would fall under a lack of adequate housing as mentioned in the previous slide. For more information on determining eligibility, feel free to reach out to us with your questions or you can also access the NCHE issue brief and the link is provided below. So once you are aware of eligibility criteria, it is time to move on to identification. Identification is often a collaborative experience. While it is the liaisons job to ensure it’s done identification can come from many different areas. It’s important for not only the liaison to understand how to identify, but for the district staff and community entities to understand as well.
Here are a few tips to remember when identifying eligible students based on the definition. Eligibility is always on a case-by-case basis. Each child and youth situation should be determined based solely on their living situation and not that of others who are eligible or ineligible. Make no assumptions. Determination of eligibility must be based on the information provided by the parent, guardian, child, or youth. Preconceived notions of a living situation need to be set aside.
Is it fixed? Is it regular? Is it adequate?
They must have all three. If they are missing one of the three, they are eligible for services. A child or youth may have fixed and regular housing, but it may not be adequate. Where else would they stay and what are their other options? Are those options affordable? Is housing even available in the area, and do they have the financial means to find other housing? Finally, how did they end up there? Did they experience an eviction? Did the owner sell their rental and they had to leave, which unfortunately right now it’s very common in our state, or was there a loss of job or severe severe illness?
Utilizing these questions and tips can help in determining eligibility but it is also important to remember that questioning should not be invasive. Beginning a conversation with a student, parent, or guardian experiencing homelessness can be difficult so I wanted to provide everyone with some strategies for talking to children youth and families experiencing homelessness. Many of the students and families we work with do not want anyone to know about their situation and this can make it hard to identify them for services.
It’s important to have strategies in mind when you talk to them about eligibility and their rights. One of the most important parts is to not use the word homeless. There’s a large stigma that’s attached to that word and many of our families will be afraid to access services once they hear it. Other terms to consider would be: in transition, in between places, and temporary living situations. Additionally, many of our families don’t consider themselves to be homeless and they may immediately refuse services just based on those words. It often helps to open up a conversation with just a conversation about the program.
As a liaison, one of the most helpful phrases that I use directed the conversation immediately towards educational assistance: “it looks like your student may be eligible for some educational services, do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions to see if they qualify?” At that point, I would be able to ask them questions about their eligibility and depending on what their responses were, I would go into what the program I worked with was, or talk to them about why they didn’t qualify as explanation of the program. Remember to inform them of their confidential rights under FERPA. Housing status is now protected and cannot be disclosed. Information about eligibility status should not be distributed and should only be provided on a need-to-know basis. For each student, this may be different.
For some students, the teacher and the principal and maybe the counselor will know, but some students that may just be the liaison and possibly the teacher. So always remember that it’s different by student. This is important: eligibility for Mckinney-Vento Services is not an immediate call to CPS. Many families are afraid to access services out of fear of being reported to CPS and poverty and homelessness alone are not a reason to report. If the student is living in a situation that would require report regardless of homeless status, then a report should be made. Situations such as abuse or neglect should instigate a report to CPS. We get some common questions about identification and eligibility in the office so I thought I’d share some of those with you today.
The first one and probably one of the most popular is, “is there an age range?” and the answer is no. Mckinney-Vento applies to all school age children, and in Washington state students have until the age of 21 to obtain their high school diploma, and they have until 22 if they’re a SpEd student. So if the student is eligible for the P through 12 system, they are eligible for services. Second, “is there a citizenship requirement?”
No. The Supreme Court case Tyler versus Doe of 1982 makes it unlawful for schools to deny access to undocumented immigrants or to ask about immigration status. Unfortunately right now this is a fairly common question in our office and one of the important things to remember is that we should not be asking students about their status or their parents about their status and they do have the right to be served regardless. And finally, “is there a time limit for homelessness?” And once again the answer is no. The Mckinney-Vento Act does not stipulate a time limit. Children and youth can experience homelessness for many years and are eligible for services throughout the duration of homelessness.
So, discussing identification and eligibility is a great time to bring up a discussion of unaccompanied youth. The definition of an unaccompanied youth is: a child or youth who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. There is no age limit for the unaccompanied youth, and any student eligible for the K through 12 system could be an unaccompanied youth. This means that even students who have reached the legal age of 18 can be considered an unaccompanied youth. While many people think of them as older students in middle school or high schools, it’s important to remember that younger children can be unaccompanied as well.
This means you could have a kindergartener who would be considered an unaccompanied youth so consider those children that are living with family, grandparents, aunts or uncles. Additionally, it’s important to remember that a student can be unaccompanied, homeless, or unaccompanied and homeless. If they are eligible for services as an unaccompanied homeless child or youth, they must be identified as both. You will need to flag these students in your school information system as both homeless and unaccompanied to ensure they’re identified correctly. For some of you that system may be Skyward, some of you may still use power schools.
There’s quite a few student information systems out there and if you’re unfamiliar with how to do this make sure that you talk to your information administrator so that they can show you how to accurately identify these students. If a student is not in the custody of a parent or legal court appointed guardian, they are considered unaccompanied youth and most of the time these students will also be considered homeless. Situations for these children and youth can fall apart quickly so it’s incredibly important to identify them and make sure you’re there to provide services. Something to remember is that just because a student is living with a family member does not mean that they’re not homeless.
When you’re trying to identify an unaccompanied youth, you ask the same questions about their living situation as you would ask a parent guardian, or student who’s living with their parent: how long have they been there? Why are they there?
Things to listen for would be the child or youth is with them while the parent is incarcerated, in treatment, unable to care for the child, or as long as they need to be. Oftentimes we see parents leave children on their grandparents doorstep and then they don’t know when mom is coming back so that’s something that can qualify a student. Situations like this would also be considered kinship care as they are with an adult who is a relative and most of these students would be eligible for services. There are very few cases where an unaccompanied youth may not qualify for services and one example that we use quite often is the example of a foreign exchange student. A foreign exchange student is not in the custody of their parent or legal guardian but they’re here under a specific program. They have their reasons to stay with whoever they’re staying with and they’re there for a specific reason.
Now, foreign exchange students could possibly become a homeless unaccompanied youth if they were to run away from their placement, which unfortunately does happen at times. But just being a foreign exchange student does not make them homeless, it makes them an unaccompanied youth, but not homeless. So once the child or youth has been identified as experiencing homelessness there are rights and services that are available to them. For those of you who are new to this position, I also want to point out the acronym LEA. This stands for a Local Education Agency and refers to a district, charter school, etc.
We often get questions about that so I thought it was best to tell you what that means ahead of time. LEAs are required to review and revise policies to remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of homeless children and youth. If your district or your LEA has any policies or procedures that possibly create a barrier to these students, they may need to be revised. LEAs must adopt local policies and practices to ensure that homeless children and youth are not stigmatized or segregated on the basis of their homelessness. These students need to be allowed to be in the normal school with the rest of the students. LEAs must designate a liaison for homeless children and youth and according to the students best interest, they must help the student maintain enrollment in the school of origin. They must enroll homeless students immediately even if they lack school records such as birth certificates, transcripts, and immunizations.
And finally, they must provide transportation to and from the school of origin and collaborate with community organizations and agencies to provide referrals and identify students experiencing homelessness. So let’s look a little deeper into a few of these provisions. A school of origin is the school the student was attending when permanently housed, or the school in which they were last enrolled, including a preschool. School of origin also includes a designated receiving school at the next grade level when the student completes the final grade in their school of origin. An example of a feeder school would be a student who is leaving the fifth grade and all students who attend their school of origin feed into a specific middle school. Under the feeder school program pattern, this student would have the right to feed into that school with the rest of their cohort. For further information about preschool which can be confusing in figuring out what is an actual preschool, I would actually recommend looking on the link below which will take you to the schoolhouse connection brief on early childhood accessibility.
It’s a wonderful brief and will provide you with all the information that you would need determining school of origin for preschool. So why is school stability important, and why is school of origin important? Well, it provides stability to students who may be facing instability at home. It removes the need to change schools frequently due to moves and provides continuity of instruction. They will not need to make new friends, become familiar with the new building or a new teacher. It has been shown that students who switch schools frequently score lower on standardized tests at an average of 20 points lower. Mobility also hurts non-mobile students. Average test scores for non level students are significantly lower in high schools with high student mobility rates, and it may take several months to recover academically after changing schools. I think we can all relate to this in many ways when it comes to school or even changing jobs or moving is that it’s somewhat of a transition to do so and children who do this often do struggle academically. So staying in the school of origin. Generally, staying in the school of origin is considered to be in the students best interest based on these factors: based on the child or youths best interests, the LEA shall keep the student in the school of origin for the duration of their homelessness, or until the end of the academic year, if the student becomes permanently housed. The other option is that they can enroll the student in a public school that housed students living in the attendance area where the student is living are eligible to attend.
This is commonly known as the neighborhood school but it also may reflect what would be considered a school of choice, or option C. Students also have the right to utilize the choice or waiver process to attend a school that is neither their school of origin nor their neighborhood school so it’s their school of choice. However, while they would be eligible for services under McKinney Vento, they would not be enrolling under their McKinney-Vento rights and if the district does not offer transportation to other students, they would not be required to provide it to the eligible student. This is the case unless the students housing situation changes again or transportation becomes a barrier to their education. This is a common question that we get in the office. A student wants to enroll in option C as opposed to a staying of their school of origin or enrolling in their neighborhood school. So like I said, they do have the right to do this, they have the right to follow through with the choice process and the district cannot deny them based on their homeless situation. However, it is important that these students are informed that transportation is not required to be provided unless their situation changes again or it becomes a barrier to their education.
So now that we’ve been speaking about transportation we can talk about it a little bit more it’s another one of those important provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act and it’s one that we get quite a few questions about in the office. If the student’s temporary residence is in the same LEA as their school of origin, the LEA must provide transportation if it’s needed. In many cases, these students in this situation will actually be able to utilize normal bus routes, but if they’re outside the zone for their school the LEA may need to provide other means of transportation. If the student has moved out of their school of origin’s LEA, the LEA of residence and the LEA of attendance must work together to determine how to divide the responsibility and the cost sharing. If they cannot agree, they must share the cost equally.
This is a wonderful opportunity for liaisons and LEAs to work together and collaborate. It’s important to have open communication with districts for transportation needs. If it isn’t a student’s best interest to remain in their school of origin and transportation is a barrier to their attendance and participation, LEAs must provide students experiencing homelessness with transportation to and from their school of origin at a parents or guardians request, or in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the liaisons request. If a student finds permanent housing during the academic year, the student has a right to remain enrolled in their school of origin and receive transportation for the duration of the year in which housing was secured. In addition to providing transportation to the school of origin, LEAs must provide students in homeless situations with transportation services that are comparable to those provided to other students.
There are many different types of transportation that could be provided to a student and just a few would be yellow bus, school van, transit bus, taxi, mileage reimbursement, and gas vouchers. There are many ways to remove the barrier of transportation from our students. When you have questions about transportation don’t be afraid to reach out to us. If we don’t know the answer we actually send you straight over to our transportation department, they’re usually able to help you with that. So after speaking about school of origin and transportation, it’s a great opportunity to bring out the discussion of determining best interest.
How do you determine the best interest of a student?
There are multiple factors that need to be considered and the most important thing to remember is that determinations must be student-centered. The liaison should always presume that keeping a student in their school of origin is in their best interest. This is the case unless that is contrary to the request of the parent, guardian, or the unaccompanied youth. Other facts that should be considered are student centered and include the impact of mobility on the student’s academic achievements, their education, and their health and safety. For preschool children, there should also be a consideration of the attachments to teachers and the staff that they have at the school that they’re attending as well as the availability of services in their new area. Travel time for these students is also important. Most importantly the decision to provide priority to the request of parent or guardian or in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the youths request.
It is incredibly important that these are taken into account. Something to remember about best interest determinations is that they cannot be made based solely on distance or time that must be included in all of the other factors and the cost of the commute can not be a factor. There may be times when the liaison and the parent, guardian, or youth do not agree on the best interest of the student and that is when disputes and resolutions may come into play. If the dispute arises over eligibility for services of school selection, transportation, or enrollment, the liaison will need to be familiar with and utilize the Washington state dispute resolution process. The parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth must be provided a written explanation of decisions made by the school, the LEA, the liaison, or at times the SEA: the state educational agency which is us here at OSPI, as well as information about how to appeal those determinations.
The liaison needs to ensure that homeless children and youth are immediately enrolled pending the resolution of the dispute. So if the dispute is over enrollment or continued enrollment, that student must be enrolled or continually enrolled until the dispute has been completed. It is imperative that the steps of this dispute process are followed explicitly. If these steps are not followed, it could could immediately find in favor of the family or vice versa, but it is important that you follow these steps. If you have questions about this process, please feel free to contact us. All LEAs should have a copy of the dispute process but it can also be found on our website if needed, along with a copy of sample paperwork that can be provided in the event of a dispute.
So how do you provide these services? Who do you need to work with?
The short answer here is everyone. When it comes to the district, every staff member in the LEA works with these students in some way or another. When you have transportation people they often are the first people to see the children in the morning and see what they go to school from and what they go home to in the afternoon. Kitchen staff and lunch people. They know if a student is not eating and they often can tell if they’re eating only at school and not at home. So you should coordinate with all of them and train all of them. This is registrar’s, school secretaries, counselors, teachers, Paras, etc. Each person in your district is incredibly important and may work with the student some way or another so they must be able to identify and understand those signs of possible homelessness. The coordination does not just stop at the district level. Collaboration and coordination with community agencies is a required duty of the liaison.
You need to know who to send your families and youth to. How do you find out who does what and who you should where? Well you need to network with your community, attend meetings, provide trainings, and maintain those relationships. Liaisons often get on lions clubs or go speak at rotaries and other groups to get the word out and explain what happens with their students who are experiencing homelessness and to make sure that they’re aware of it. It helps to train the community on what to be looking out for and who to contact if they think that they have found a family or student that’s in need of services. Your contacts as a liaison essentially become the contacts of your students and families. This can be really difficult in small communities and so some of our liaisons in some smaller areas may need to connect with organizations that are in surrounding towns or districts. If you’re in a rural district, look to the largest town next to you or possibly in your county and it may be an opportunity for you to reach out and collaborate with people in that area, but it’s also probably where your families will need to go for services.
Once you make contact with your collaborative groups and you’re familiar with the services in your area, you’re able to make those referrals that you need to. Liaisons are required to refer homeless families and youths for medical health, dental health, etc. and it might help to make a provider’s list that you can reference and hand out to your families and youth. Make sure to build a few relationships with some providers in your area so you know exactly who to send them to. I used to practice the warm handoff with some of my families where if I knew I was helping them meet up with some sort of agency, I often called that agency ahead of time to find out who they would be speaking to and that way I could tell my families and students, “when you get there you want to talk to Sara, she’s at the front desk and she’s expecting you.” It tends to bridge that gap. It helps remove some of that confusion and possible hesitation. You can also help them make the appointment. This can be especially important for unaccompanied youth who may be uncomfortable making an appointment on their own.
Some of our unaccompanied youth that may have been a very long time since they’ve seen a doctor and they may not have any idea how to do this, so by helping them to make that call and make that appointment, it helps remove some of the scariness of making that first appointment and talking to people about something you’re not familiar with. The job of a liaison is not necessarily an easy one, but we have resources available for liaisons to assist in your work and maintain compliance with federal regulations. We do have updated forms available on our website to help streamline the process of identification and connection of services.
So what I’m going to do next is go over these forms and talk about how you can use them in the district and how they’re helpful for these purposes. The housing questionnaire is arguably the most important document that we have in our resources. All LEAS provide this document to all students at least once annually and most districts do this at the beginning of the year in welcome-back packets. Additionally, the housing questionnaire must be in all enrollment packets. The housing questionnaire is one of the main forms of identification for children and youth experiencing homelessness. This form is compliant for federal and state monitoring purposes and LEAs can adopt this form directly from our website by adding their liaisons name and the liaisons contact information. It is important to point out that while this is a required form for districts to utilize and distribute, students and families are not required to complete it in order to receive services.
This is a tool for identification. It is not an application. So as you can see on the form and I’m sure some of you are probably fairly familiar with it, it’s a very simple survey of housing and we ask them to check any that apply so they may check that they’re in a motel, or they’re in a residence with inadequate facilities. Generally, a form that has been filled out and any of these boxes have been checked will be referred to the liaison so that their liaison can follow up to see if a family qualifies. The intake form is next and generally it’s the next step after initial identification. If a student is identified through referral from district staff and not the housing questionnaire, you can immediately go to the intake form. They do not have to complete a new housing questionnaire at that time. But if they do complete a housing questionnaire and it looks like they may be eligible for services, you can go straight to the intake form to determine need. The intake form is a tool that should be completed by the liaison during a conversation with the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied child or youth.
This tool helps with the identification of needs and services. It is also compliant for federal and state monitoring purposes and LEAs can adopt this form directly from our website by adding their LEAS name. It is important to point out that while the LEA and liaison must have some form of intake process students and families are not required to complete it in order to receive services. Once again, this is not an application. If a student is eligible for services they are eligible regardless of the existence of a housing questionnaire or intake form. In addition, signatures on the intake and housing questionnaire are not required. This has been a fairly common question in our office the last few months. Families who have not signed intake forms or housing questionnaires and were not provided services based on that. Eligibility is eligibility, so even if they have not provided a signature or filled out one of these forms, if they’re eligible, they should be identified and receiving services. This is just an example of one of our transportation forms. We are currently in the process of creating a transportation toolkit with multiple templates for you that include not just this request form but also examples of in lieu of agreements for mileage reimbursement or possibly gas vouchers. We’ll hopefully have those up in the next month or so but I still wanted to provide you with this screenshot of what one of them looks like now.
This form can be used within the district and in conjunction with other districts, which is one of the great things about it- that you don’t have to have two separate forms from each district. And once again, all of our forms are compliant for federal and state monitoring purposes. LEAs can adopt this specific form basically by adding adding their LEAs name. LEAs are required to post the rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness. I apologize, I got ahead of myself, all districts are required to provide notice to parents, guardians, and the community of the local child find. This is a sample flier and it’s just one option for LEA’s. If your LEA already has a child find, you would want to ensure that it has the correct language that’s specific to children experiencing homelessness. On this form, which you probably cannot see- it is stated at the bottom and it says if your family is living in a temporary situation you may contact the district where you are currently staying for a screening. Since many families experiencing homelessness may not consider themselves as such, the mention of a temporary situation is often more inclusive.
This form is also compliant for federal and state monitoring purposes and LEA can adopt this form directly from our website by adding their LEA’s name and information. LEAs are required to post the rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness in all LEA buildings and in the community in areas frequented by those experiencing homelessness. Posters should be hung in front offices, counseling centers, hallways, locker rooms, and even bathrooms in schools. In the community places such as the post office DSHS, laundromats, stores, gas stations, etc. are wonderful options for posting posters. A smaller LEA may have limited options for hanging them and this may mean that they’re placed in the one location or place they have and some areas in our state sometimes that may be a rest stop, or a grange, or we even had one that didn’t have anything other than a bar. Wherever your families may stop in your area, that’s where you’ll want to post these posters.
You can order them from us for free from our website at no charge and we do offer them in multiple languages, and that’s something important to note about the rest of the forms that I’ve already shown is that the majority of these come in at least English and Spanish and the housing questionnaire comes in I believe eight other languages. Parent brochures need to be available in the LEA buildings and areas such as the office, counseling centers, and it needs to be provided to all parents or guardians of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Like the posters, brochures can be ordered from our website at no charge and they are also available in multiple languages including English Spanish and marshalese. The actual day-to-day activities of the liaison are different by LEA and by region; however, there are certain universal things that pop up throughout the year that liaisons really need to keep on their mind or keep up in their other areas of possibility.
In August and September, qualifying families and reconnecting with the previous year’s families is incredibly important. Liaisons need to connect with all that were previously identified to make sure that they can determine whether or not they requalify. Students should not just immediately transfer over from year to year. It is a by year eligibility. You also need to remember that students are eligible for services for up to 30 days into the new school year. At times it can be very difficult to get in touch with our families and this basically gives them that availability to be enrolled and start school on time and ensure that continuity of instruction just in case. This way we don’t have students that show up on the first day of school without a desk or a cubby which can be a huge setback for them. The beginning of the year is also the perfect time to start training your staff so get on agendas and get out there. A lot of schools start forming their staff meetings at the beginning of the year so you can get on those agendas quickly and early the better it is. October. FAFSA. We can probably change the name of October to FAFSA.
The FAFSA now opens in October so this is an incredibly important month for our unaccompanied youth so make sure that you are helping them apply to college, to fill out their FAFSA, and make sure that you give them their independent verification. It’s incredibly important to remember that your unaccompanied students who are seniors must be made aware of their status and their ability to apply for financial aid as an independent student. For some of them, this is their only opportunity to go to college. I know I did not get much into this but one of the wonderful things about the verification for independent status is that these students will not be required to enter in their parents information on the FAFSA. This means that they can receive aid without having to provide that and for some of our students who have no contact with parents or don’t know where they are or the parents refuse to provide that information.
Without this verification they would have a very difficult time receiving federal aid. We do have a sample verification form on our website that can be used for this purpose and if you have follow-up questions about this, I would definitely urge you to reach out to us, myself or Jesse Lewis, who is our program supervisor for homeless student stability. November is a very important time of the year. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of assistance agencies that provide assistance over Christmas or in the winter actually have deadlines in November, so these are things such as heating assistance, electricity assistance, food baskets, those types of things, so you want to make sure that you connect with them to make sure that you get applications and referrals in.
A lot of these groups and organizations will actually run out of assistance if they wait too long so it’s important to make sure that you are aware of deadlines and application processes to make sure that you can help your families. Families who come in after the deadlines, that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to have assistance, but it may be a great opportunity for you to reach out and do some extra collaboration for those families. Different groups that you should consider will be Salvation Army, United Way, and faith-based organizations which would be your local churches. They often really want to assist but sometimes they don’t really know how to do that so you can also provide them with a lot of information about how to do that. Sometimes they’ll say things like, “I want to give toys” and you can maybe change the conversation to, “what about food or possibly shoes or winter coats?”
A lot of these organizations run coat and blanket drives, as well as food drives. December. Heading into winter break is a tough time for our kids. Students who are experiencing homelessness may be concerned about what will happen during the time away from school. They may be worried about a lack of food, the overspending, fear of eviction, and overall safety, are common issues this time of year. I think we’ve all probably experienced in schools that apprehension that we see in our kids during that time of year, the ones that are really scared about what’s going to happen and this is very common for our families, so making sure that you have connected with those local groups to make sure that you can help them with different assistance throughout that holiday season is really important, especially food assistance. So once we hit January and we’re returning from that winter break we often have families who are facing very difficult situations.
They may have lost housing during the break or they may be struggling to make ends meet after overspending. It’s very common for families to lose housing over this time so you may have quite a few families that are looking to maintain their school of origin and many transportation setup. This is a great month to make sure that you connect with all of your families to make sure that their needs are being met and to get a heads up on possible situations. This part of the year can be really difficult so if you’re prepared for it and you’re reaching out, it can be a big help to the students and the families.
Issues from the holidays can bleed over into the next few months and February is one of the common ones. During the holidays, a lot of our families, well, and a lot of us tend to overspend, and many families might lose housing during the month of February due to overspending over the holidays. If they’re unable to pay Februarys rent, then they could be looking at an eviction heading into March, so touching base with housing providers to make sure you know who to contact and who has systems available is a smart idea. This not only prepares you for what to do if families come to you and need a referral, but if you do have an influx of families that are losing housing, you will have a lot more information to pass along and to help them with their needs. I lumped March and April together because a lot of the things that happen in these two months could happen in either. One of the big ones is Spring Break.
As you see with winter break and even a weekend for that matter a week off of school is enough for major changes to occur with our families so it’s really important that you keep an eye on your students because they could be concerned about food and safety and housing and while for some people a week doesn’t seem like a lot, some of our students may not have housing or safety or even food when they’re not at school so maintaining that and making sure we’re keeping an eye on them is incredibly important. If you work with a backpack program or some sort of a food program it’s a great time to see if they have extra food to provide the students during the extended time off. Continuing on for March and April, don’t forget that these are sleeper months.
Families that overextended during the holidays may have been able to pay rent in January, but not February, and that means that they may have received a 30 day eviction notice and they could be in danger of losing housing in March or April. Also something to consider is tax returns. A lot of families think about that tax return as an opportunity to kind of clothe themselves- we overspent but when I get my tax return, it will all be okay. The problem is is that as we all know sometimes we expect to get one and we don’t get one, or it may be smaller than we expected, or in the event in the situation’s of our families, it could be stolen, or spent, or even seized which is unfortunately something that we do see occur. So one of the things that I noticed as a liaison was that March was sometimes fairly quiet and then suddenly I would have multiple kids pop up onto my radar in April and it was just that kind of casual, you know, time line going from the holidays into the later months.
But like I said, this is an issue for many reasons and keeping an eye on the kids and their mindset at this time is really important. So in May heading into the end of the year a lot of our families and students start worrying about next year and those of you who are at the district last year as a liaison are probably familiar with this. They start getting concerned because people keep talking to them about choice forms or district waivers or inter-district requests so something to remember is that our students who qualify for services under McKinney-Vento do not need a choice or a school waiver to attend their school of origin. So if they return next year and they are still in the same situation they would be able to attend their school of origin without filling out a choice or school waiver.
This is also a very good time to start looking at fees and fines that are owed by your students. If you settle these before the end of the year, they don’t become a barrier to your students, which is unfortunately something that does happen a lot for our families and for our students, especially for our seniors. So I would actually recommend that you look at these for your seniors prior to May, but it’s important to remember that fees should be waived for students and that fines cannot be held against them in any way. Heading into June, a lot of our districts send out an end-of-the-year letter, so something that you may want to consider including is information on summer food programs and other community assistance. Summer is a long time for some of our kids.
They don’t have the stability of school. They don’t have the meals and having that information can be incredibly helpful. One of the other things I like to remind people about these end of year letters is that if you can send them home with students, it’s much more likely that they will arrive in the hands of the people that they’re meant for than if you mail them, especially if you have a family whos doubled up or is highly mobile, the chances of receiving that letter is pretty minimal.
Something else that you should consider is when you send out these letters, let the families and students know what your summer hours are. We get a lot of calls even during the summer and sometimes parents don’t realize that the liaison doesn’t work over the summer and no one’s calling them back. So by providing this information and saying, “I will be out of the office from June 30th through August 15th” lets them know that they haven’t missed you and that they will still hear from you and that you are not ignoring them, which unfortunately some of them are afraid of. They may get pretty used to hearing the word “no” so making sure that they have all the information can be incredibly important for them.
Make sure that all of your registrar’s- especially on this one- your office people, your principles, and your registrar’s are aware of the fact that eligible students are to be enrolled and ready to attend at the beginning of the school year. So once again this is kind of that 30 day grace period. They need to all remain in the system until the next year and then if they’re not eligible for services then maybe that’s a conversation of, “let’s help you enroll in your neighborhood school or do a choice form. And while we didn’t talk about it very much today, data collection is really important this time of year. We just had ours close mid July and every district is required to make sure that they are putting the correct information and identifying students in their information system. Don’t worry, you have another year before you have to worry about that again. So on a monthly basis you want to check your student data. Make sure that all your students are entered correctly.
Connect with your community partners and see if there are any events that are coming up that could assist your students. Have any of your family’s been accessing assistance? Maybe there’s something that they are utilizing that you didn’t even know about. Sometimes your students or families can be a wonderful bridge to new resources. Something that’s also important and is becoming more and more important is making sure that you’re reviewing the attendance and credits for your students. Are they on track? I would recommend doing this quarterly as well. If you keep an eye on this and issues arise for one of your students, it can keep them from running into a big issue when they’re seniors.
It looks like we have a couple right now but I definitely have some time to answer your questions and I would love to be able to do so. Don’t worry if you are like some people and you don’t want to put your information in there and you just want to ask privately. You can definitely do that as well but you do have an opportunity to have your questions answered today on the webinar. So now that you’re familiar with your role as the liaison, we’d like to know a little bit about you so let’s talk about updating the liaison information on the OSPI website. We do maintain a list of every liaison in the state of Washington on our website.
This is a requirement under McKinney-Vento and if at any time a new liaison is added to your district or someone is replaced with a new one, you do need to update your district’s information on our website. To do so, you just go to our website and follow the directions that are on the slide. You would go to the liaison page and click that big Update button that’s at the top and it basically takes you to a short survey. When you’re entering this information, you will also be asked to enter your training information. Please remember that this information is not immediately updated. We have to enter it in manually so it could take up to a week for it to reflect on the website so if you do provide an update for this, don’t be worried if you don’t see it the next day. If it gets past a week and you still haven’t seen it updated, let us know. It may mean that we haven’t gotten to it or it may have been missed. This list is incredibly important for many reasons not just that it’s required the LEA designated liaison reports information, but we do use the information on this list to refer families to the correct liaison. Sometimes families and students will access it themselves and liaisons also use this to figure out who they need to talk to in the next district over. If this information is incorrect, it can create a huge barrier for our students. So we have reached the time in the program where I’m going to take some of your questions.
So it looks like I have four questions and I’m going to answer them not necessarily in the correct order so don’t be worried if you don’t hear yours yet, and I’m not going to say who asked them (a little bit of anonymity is always nice) but the first question is, “can get mckinney-vento transportation services be denied due to student behavior issues- parent not picking up the student from the stop in a timely manner or other issues?” this is a great question and the answer to that is no, they have that right to transportation under mckinney-vento and it would be something quite drastic for that transportation to ever be denied. What you’d be looking at here is, this may be a situation where maybe the transportation provided needs to be changed. If you have student behavior issues, it could be a situation where maybe they’re riding a bus and that’s not working. So maybe you need to look at mileage reimbursement. If a parent is able to transport, there are lots of different methods of transportation so what the district needs to do is, they need to look at the different options and make sure that they are providing options that work for that student. You do need to make sure that you’re documenting that as well. If it comes to the point where everything that’s been tried is not working, then that may be a situation where you need to look at doing a best interest and it may need to go to a dispute process, but transportation cannot be denied based on that alone. You do need to look at other options and make sure that barrier is being removed.
We have someone that’s wondering if we can provide a training that’s intended for all teachers, school staff? There actually is a short webinar on our website that is meant for school staff on the homeless education pages if you go to training and webinars I believe it’s called identification of students experiencing homelessness. I think it’s about 15 to 20 minutes and it is specifically meant for that purpose. It is a great opportunity for liaisons to use that in their trainings. It’s something that’s shorter and really kind of hits that point for them. The next question is, “can families choose to attend and receive mckinney-vento services at a a school that is not the school of origin just because they are M-V, or is it only their school of origin?” So this kind of goes back to the idea of choicing into a school. If a student is eligible for services, they’re eligible for mckinney-vento services at any school that they attend because they are homeless.
But they can only enroll under those rights at their school of origin or their neighborhood school. So if they want to enroll in a school that is not their school of origin, or the school in the neighborhood that they’re living, that’s when that choice form or that inter-district request comes in, and as I’d mentioned before, they have the right to utilize that process, and if they do get accepted and they get enrolled, then they do have a right to receive services like food service, tutoring, extra academic assistance. It’s really the transportation that differs with that whereas you would not be required to provide it to that student if other students do not receive it.
So this this question is a lot to it so I would actually really suggest that the person that asked this question call and set up a time to maybe talk with me later on this week or next week because I think that this will be a really good one to have an actual conversation about. But the bottom line is that students who are eligible for services under McKinney Vento are eligible to receive those services in any school they are attending. It’s when it comes to those choice schools- it’s really the transportation that’s different. Next question, “what if the student is staying with a relative that their parent has agreed to them staying there. If this is temporary and due to a disagreement between youth and the parent, is it considered an unaccompanied youth?” Yes, this is a situation that does happen quite often. We have students that go in and out of their parents homes maybe due to arguments or maybe they just can’t get along. It doesn’t really matter why they left, what matters is what their nighttime residence is. So if they’re staying with someone that is not their parent or legal court-appointed guardian, then they are unaccompanied youth and if the situation is temporary, and a situation like this it often is, you don’t really know how long it will last and that student would also be considered homeless.
One of the important things about this and something that I remind people of when I talk to them is that a situation for an unaccompanied youth may look great- they’ve just moved in with best friend and everything is wonderful but that can fall apart quite quickly. Maybe a best friend gets kind of tired of sharing their stuff, or maybe they have a falling out, or maybe the rules in this place are completely different from what they’re used to. Even situations that look pretty wonderful in the beginning can fall apart, so you’re always looking at that situation for the students. Where are they sleeping? Are they sleeping on the couch? How long are they intended to be there? In a situation like this where it’s a disagreement between the youth and the parent, this is definitely a situation where that student most likely an unaccompanied homeless youth.
This question says, “why is the word homeless used so much on MV forms and info? I just think it’s important to change the printed vocab if you want people to use different vocab verbally.” This is a good point. One of the things to remember here is that this is a federal act so the federal Act does use the word homeless. So something to remember when it comes to government and policy is that sometimes it’s really hard to get that changed so those of us who actually kind of hit the ground and do this on a daily basis know to change those words. If there’s a word on a document that does not work for you, let’s say that your program is named something different because in your district you have decided to call your program “families in transition” you can do that.
What you need to make sure that you have on these forms is that you have the important information and that you have the laws, but when it comes down to it, the federal law is an educational Assistance Act for students experiencing homelessness. I really like that question and I truly appreciate you asking that. “If a parent avoids or refuses to sign the housing inventory form or the intake form but is still receiving services, do they still get counted in the count of homeless students?” Yes, because you will need to identify them in your school information system, so whether that be skyward or power schools or whatever data system you use, if you know that a student or family is eligible for services, you are federally required to identify them. We have just a couple questions left and so if you want your question in feel free to get it in.
The next question is, “if a family moves out of state into a shelter, which school can they attend? The local neighborhood school in which the shelter is located, or they can attend a school district in which they want to find housing eventually?” It looks like we maybe have two separate questions here. I want to approach the first one which is, “if they move out of state.” McKinney-Vento does transfer across state lines, so a lot of our districts do end up sharing students with Idaho or Oregon. This is something that does happen every once in a while. The student may move across state lines but still would be able to maintain their school of origin. If a family moved into a shelter that’s out of state, then they could continue to attend their school of origin in the other state.
The other part of this, which I think does kind of bleed into is that, “the local neighborhood school in which the shelter is located or can they attend a school district in which they want to find housing?” Once again, this goes back to the idea of choice or inter-district requests. The student would have the right to enroll in that neighborhood school if they wanted to, or they could stay in their school of origin if it’s close or if it’s in their best interest. If that district where they want to attain housing- if that’s not their neighborhood or their school of origin- you’re looking at they would need to do a choice form, or a waiver, or an inter-district request. And I use those words interchangeably because every district has a different name for those. So once again either they want to enroll in a school that’s not their neighborhood school or their school of origin, they do need to do that choice request. I do have a question on here about title one set aside. So just to let the person know who asked this question, I will respond to that one personally since we are not going to have time to get into that during this webinar.
The next question we have is, “do you have a sample form available that you recommend for unaccompanied youth that allows for them to sign for themselves for athletic or extracurricular activities, or a caregiver authorization form if the student is staying with an adult that does not have legal custody?” We do not have anything that is specifically meant for that purpose. Something to remember is that when we have unaccompanied youth, oftentimes the people that they’re staying with may be willing to help out which is essentially what the caregiver is. What we do have is a template for informed consent. Informed consent came from a homeless student stability act of 2015 and what it does is it provides the liaison, the school nurse, or the counselor the ability to provide verification of the student is an unaccompanied youth and to receive health services. So when it comes to a physical, that’s something that could be used, but the other thing that you need to remember is that a lack of a signature or a parent cannot create a barrier to the students involvement in activities.
So it might be a situation where you know you don’t necessarily have to have that documentation but if that caregiver is willing to sign for that student, then that does need to be allowed or the liaison can also act as an advocate for the student or the student can sometimes sign for themselves on things but in a situation like this when it comes to the physicals I would really recommend that you use the informed consent for that and that you have a discussion with your superior at the district about how you want to handle situations with students who are unaccompanied youth and do not have parents to sign things. Having that conversation now can be very helpful for you and for your students. The next question is pretty easy to answer, it’s basically bouncing off the question about changing names and asks if the position can be changed to families and transition liaison. That’s actually a district choice, that’s not something that we dictate.
The law says homeless liaison, so if the district wants to change it to families and transitional liaison, you can definitely do so. At my district as the liaison, my office was considered the families in transition office and most people called me the transition liaison. The next question is, “a family has been claiming McKinney-Vento for several years with the same address and another staff member receives information that the family may actually be in their own permanent housing. What can the liaison do in possible cases of fraud?” In the event that you have a situation like this occur, one of the things that I always like to remind people is to make no assumptions, so unless the staff member has actual evidence, you do have to be very careful with this because as everyone knows, there’s often a lot of gossip, especially in small towns so remember that what people hear and what people see it is not always what’s happening in the home itself.
But, in the event that a family does have their own housing, it’s in their name, it’s fixed regular and adequate, they have a legal tied to it in maybe a situation where they’ve provided incorrect information. In that event what the district does is they actually just follow their own districts fraud procedures.
That is the best way to handle that if it comes down to a situation of providing services it may be a situation where you need to provide them with the information you received and they may want to dispute that, but the first and foremost step for this is to follow the district’s normal fraud procedures. Something to remember too is that the housing questionnaire does have a notation on there saying that if the information that they’re providing is accurate so that’s incredibly important to remind families. We have another question about housing questionnaires so the question is if they receive the housing questionnaire indicating a temporary living situation but a liaison reaches out and they choose not to call us back, should we go ahead and qualify them in skyward without an intake interview?
No unless you know for a fact you are familiar with the family situation you’ve talked to them before maybe they were previously qualified and you know for a fact that they are experiencing homelessness, then you would go ahead and qualify them. If it is just a form and it has just been checked to say temporary, until you have done a follow-up phone call you should not qualify them in the system. Part of the reason behind that is sometimes families do fill these forms out incorrectly so you wouldn’t want to qualify a family that was not eligible and then, “if a family does not want to be qualified, should we honor that and not require it in skyward?” unfortunately this is one of those times where you are federally required to identify them.
They can refuse all services and say I want nothing to do with this program but under federal law you are required to put it in your school information system. so it looks like we did get a couple questions in the chat box so I’m gonna try and pull that up really quick. okay okay, so the question is for unaccompanied youth living with a relative not their legal guardian “can the relative grant permission to field trips or assign other school waiver forms? yes in this event they’re essentially acting as a parent and under FERPA someone who’s acting as the parents in the absence of a parent can sign those forms.
The other option that you have could be once again where the liaison acts as an advocate and signs those forms for the students but the students do need to make sure they have that ability to participate and the lack of that parent signature can be a huge barrier so making sure that you’re prepared to have the caregiver sign or to sign yourself can sometimes be the best way to help that.
The next question is a short one and it is, “is there a limit to the distance travel to the attending school” and the answer to that is no there is no time limit or distance limit within mckinney-vento it is all based on best interest. so if the student is say a senior and wants to travel two hours both ways to get back to their school of origin and that’s their best interest and then that might be the case. One of the things that I remind people when it comes to something like this is especially in our rural areas we often have kids that are on a bus, a normal bus on a normal route for an hour or more so if you have normal kids in your district that would be on a bus or transporting that far you do want to make sure that you are honoring that and if a student wants to continue in their school of origin and it is that far, then that maybe it’s a situation where they have the right to do that.
So the next question is “is it required by law to enter status in the school information system?” so the answer to that is yes, you are federally required to identify students as that are homeless and that is how we collect that data so when you enter that information in, when we do our data collection, we pull the information from you to make sure that you are identifying and that you do have that information logged. So we do still have about 15 more minutes so at this point I have gotten through all of the questions that are on here so if you want to take a minute and enter some more I can go through the last of the slides which are basically references but I also do want to pick up the question that had been asked about the shelter that was across state lines that had the follow-up question provided a little bit more information. so the original question was that the local neighborhood school in which the shelter is located- can they enroll in that or can they attend in the school district which they want to find housing- the school of origin is too far away.
So this is basically the same answer that I provided before, in this case, it just means that school of origin maybe isn’t an option so they can enroll in their neighborhood school or they can do the choice process to inter district request process to enroll in that other in that other school that they wish to attend so moving on if you have questions for us you don’t want to ask them on the webinar or if any time comes up throughout the school year and you have questions or concerns or just want to bounce something off someone, please feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We do have a technical assistance email box, it is: homelessed@ k12. wa.us.
We do request that technical assistance questions go to that email. Each of those questions are answered in the in the sequence in which they were received and it’s important to remember that because it can mean that your question is answered quickly as opposed to sending it to one of us specifically and it may take us a while to get to. our phone number for the office is 360-725-6505 and if you’re lucky you’ll get to talk to our wonderful and amazing administrative assistant who’s sitting right next to me, Aubry Schlottmann. You can reach any of us at this number and if you do not get an answer, please feel free to leave a voicemail we do check it throughout the day. Once you enter your information into the liaison list, it will be added to our gov delivery distribution list and this is incredibly important because we send out updates and other information on gov delivery sometimes once a week sometimes a couple of times a month but we send out information such as trainings or funding opportunities so make sure that you keep an eye out for those and then we’re gonna just get to the state contacts and resources most of you know Melinda Dyer is our program supervisor and then we’ve got Jess Lewis who’s the program supervisor for state homeless student stability Aubry is our admin support staff and then Peggy Carlson is our program supervisor for foster care.
I also have some national and state resources here for you. the link to schoolhouse connection which is one of our biggest national partners, then there’s the National Center on homeless education schoolhouse Washington the national network for youth and it looks like we did have a couple questions pop in. okay the first question is, what is gov delivery? gov delivery is basically a memo is essentially what it is. our liaison gets to get some information, the list goes out to our liaisons and says, hey, this is going on. it’s basically easy.
And the next question is, is I’m actually going to reach out to this person specifically about this question so I promise you, you will be hearing from me. Hopping over to the next question is “are we required to have this phrase on our housing questionnaire the phrase is,”I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Washington that the information provided here is true and correct.” you are not required to have that but I would recommend that you do. So this is the phrase that I was mentioning during the question about if a family provides fraudulent information while this doesn’t specifically, you know, guard against them providing information that’s incorrect, one of the things that I noticed as a liaison is that the very few times I had a family that maybe had been providing incorrect information, seeing that does give them pause because this is information that they’re providing us in that’s inaccurate so I would recommend it. it is not required. okay so it looks like that is it for questions once again I do want to remind you that if you have a question that you were afraid to ask during the webinar or if anything comes up, please feel free to reach out.
I always let people know when they call sometimes they’re afraid that they’re bugging us and I promise you that you are never bugging us so anytime you have a question or you have a concern please do not be afraid to reach out. we are here to help so once again thank you for your time this afternoon and I appreciate all of you and the work that you do in your districts for our kids thank you.