The loss of a home is a traumatic experience for anyone but especially for children. Approximately 4.2 million children experience homelessness each year, and a major consequence of homelessness for children is a disruption in their education. Children experiencing homelessness depend heavily on the stability of school to give them a semblance of normalcy in their lives.
Providing continuity of education during an episode of homelessness is vital not only for children’s short-term mental health and emotional well-being but also for their future academic success and economic stability. Kids who change schools twice in a single year are 50% less likely to complete their basic education.
The Law Center is committed to protecting the rights of children experiencing homelessness, including their right to remain in school and receive the support and stability they need to succeed.
“I don’t know what would have happened if it weren’t for having her and the other volunteer lawyers and staff from NLCHP on our side. If I can help just one more parent become aware of the law and the services of the Law Center so that they don’t have to go through what I went through, I’m happy to do whatever I can.” – C.H., father of two
All children have the basic human right to access a quality education that will help them reach their highest potential. To ensure stability for homeless children, the education provisions of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act gives them the right to:
- Remain in the same school they attended before becoming homeless, even if they’re temporarily housed in a different district;
- Receive free transportation to and from school;
- Enroll in a new school without delays due to documentation requirements;
- Receive free school meals and other necessities to help them stay in school; and
- Access a full range of supportive services and extracurricular activities.
But too often, these rights are violated. Many schools and families are unaware of the law’s protections, resulting in many homeless children being denied or delayed access to school. The Law Center is a national leader on this issue. We provide training and technical assistance to schools and advocates to make sure they understand homeless children’s rights and are familiar with best practices in identifying and supporting homeless students. We also provide legal support to families via impact litigation and know-your-rights toolkits.
Through Project LEARN, a cutting-edge pilot program with pro bono partner DLA Piper, the Law Center has trained attorneys from 20 offices across the country to expand our capacity to carry out our critical work. That means more homeless children in more cities will stay in school and receive the education they need to break the cycle of poverty and achieve their dreams.
Beyond access to education, many homeless youths living on their own face additional barriers to the exercise of their basic rights. From runaway, truancy, and curfew statutes to the inability to sign a rental contract or consent to needed health services, unaccompanied homeless youth struggle to survive. The Law Center has published State Index on Youth Homelessness, which compares all 50 states and DC on their efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. We work with communities across the U.S. to improve their responses to youth homelessness in order to ensure youth are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
“The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is a key partner in addressing the multi-faceted issues facing runaway and homeless youth. Youth homelessness is an enormous issue in the city of Baltimore and yet, there is no dependable research and there are very few resources/services to support this population.” – Megan K. Blondin, Executive Director, MANY, Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth & Family Services