Homeless children and youth report that school is a home to them – a place where they see the same faces, sit in the same seat, and can put their hearts and minds into pursuits that ease their daily troubles. In school, students gain the skills and support needed to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Setting the Context

Unaccompanied homeless youth are youth experiencing homelessness while not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. It is estimated that 1.6 to 1.7 million youth experience homelessness on their own each year.  These youth live in a variety of unsafe, temporary situations, including cars, parks, the homes of other people, shelters, and motels. Most of these young people have left home due to severe family dysfunction, including abuse and neglect. Studies have found that 20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused sexually in their homes, while 40-60% were abused physically.  Over two-thirds of unaccompanied homeless youth report that at least one of their parents abuses drugs or alcohol.  20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. Finally, many unaccompanied youth are trying to raise children on their own: Research indicates as many as 20% of homeless youth become pregnant.

Learn more below about educational and other supports available to unaccompanied homeless youth.

NAEHCY Resources

The Most Frequently Asked Questions on the Education Rights of Youth in Homeless Situations: Issues Facing Unaccompanied Youth
This document provides answers to the most frequently asked questions on the education rights of unaccompanied youth. It is an excerpt from “The Most Frequently Asked Questions on the Education Rights of Children in Homeless Situations.September 2016.

Unaccompanied Youth Toolkit for High School Counselors and McKinney-Vento Liaisons

This toolkit consists of several, one-to-two page briefs designed to help McKinney-Vento liaisons, school counselors, and other school staff support unaccompanied youth in school and out. User-friendly briefs cover issues such as identification, school enrollment, financial aid for college, accessing medical care and shelter, and food. November 2016

Housing + High School = Success. Schools and Communities Uniting to House Unaccompanied Youth
This publication provides a step-by-step guide and practical tools to create four different temporary housing models for unaccompanied youth: host homes; group homes; independent living; and emergency shelters. The steps are designed to give readers tools to establish these programs in their communities and include sample youth applications, host home applications, powers of attorney, parental consent forms, confidentiality notices, job descriptions, posters, flyers, Power Point presentations, data collection tools, and other useful forms and documents.

Immigration and Schools: Supporting Success for Undocumented Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Attending school and securing lawful status in the United States are two keys to safety and security for undocumented unaccompanied homeless youth. This brief, co-authored by NAEHCY and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), is designed for young people, immigration attorneys and advocates, McKinney-Vento liaisons, and other educators. It provides information about federal laws that provide the means for undocumented unaccompanied youth who are homeless to attend school and address their immigration status.

Making State Laws Work for Unaccompanied Youth: A How-To Manual and Tools for Creating State Laws and Policies to Support Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Under Age 18
As McKinney-Vento liaisons, youth service providers, attorneys and others work to assist unaccompanied homeless youth, they often are limited by state and federal laws that do not provide youth with adequate rights. This publication provides practical tools and strategies to help youth and advocates create state and local laws and policies to support unaccompanied homeless youth.

State-by-State Legal Summary of Minors' Rights to Consent to Routine Medical Care

Surrogate Parents and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Co-authored by NAEHCY and the National Association for State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), this short publication provides the legal landscape for who can consent for special education evaluations and services for unaccompanied homeless youth, with implementation tips and resources.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Education and Homelessness
This brief and companion flowchart aim to assist McKinney-Vento and other education staff in determining the McKinney-Vento eligibility of unaccompanied immigrant children who may be arriving in their communities and providing these children with appropriate services.
Download the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Education and Homelessness brief.
Download the companion Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and the McKinney-Vento Act: Overall Process from Apprehension through Placement flowchart.

Using What We Know: Supporting the Education of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
This report presents seven principles for educational success for unaccompanied youth and detailed, practical strategies to implement those principles in schools and communities. Distilled from interviews with over one hundred NAEHCY members from across the country, each principle is based on what we know as educators and advocates dedicated to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness: that to confront the educational challenges of unaccompanied young people, we must confront homelessness. Republished in 2008 in the Seattle Journal for Social Justice.

NAEHCY 2018 Conference
Anaheim, CA
October 27-30, 2018
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
Homeless Students in ESEA Reauthorization
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