Strategies for Obtaining Documentation/Records

Action Strategies
Have parents complete the required forms
  • Have staff available to help parents fill out the forms.
  • Have forms in the parent’s primary language or a staff member available to translate.
  • If a family is not able to come to your location, then meet the family where it's convenient for them.
  • Develop affidavits to serve as alternative forms of documentation/records normally required for enrollment, such as proof of guardianship. Such forms should be crafted carefully so that they do not create further barriers or delay enrollment.
Enroll children before obtaining documentation/records
  • Enroll children in homeless situations immediately.
    • You can enroll children based on the family’s description of its living situation (if that description meets the definition).
    • You can enroll children even if they lack documentation/records normally required for enrollment, such as medical or immunization records, birth certificate, proof of guardianship, or other documents.
    • A Head Start or Early Head Start program may be the only opportunity for these children to benefit from a stable environment, uninterrupted adult attention, peer relations, stimulation, and reliable meals. Immediate enrollment provides them with needed stability while documents/records are gathered.
  • Provide immediate access to services and obtain required verification of circumstances and collection of documents within a reasonable time frame.
  • Accept previous school records directly from families.
  • Link the family with community services.
  • Train staff, secretaries, family service workers, directors, and others on the legal requirements for enrollment.
Locate or obtain the required documents/records for enrollment. Examples include:
  • Immunization record(s)
  • Proof of guardianship
  • School physical/health record(s)
  • Proof of identity
  • School record(s)
  • Birth certificate
  • If a child was in a program previously, contact that program to obtain records and information. In the meantime, enroll the child in your program.
  • Get as much information from the family as possible and assist the family in navigating through the bureaucracy to obtain the necessary documentation/records including medical and immunization records, and birth certificates.
  • Establish relationships with health care agencies to provide free physical examinations and immunizations for children experiencing homelessness on an expedited basis, and accompany parents and children to their service appointments. It is often difficult for parents to obtain medical records because of the stresses and disorganization caused by being in a homelessness situation.
  • Begin providing services to parents immediately, even before you have the records and even before a child’s enrollment in the classroom, by making home visits to families and offering housing-related and/or crisis intervention services.
  • Enroll children in classes as soon as they have immunization records and establish a 30-day grace period for obtaining other documentation/records.
  • Expedite the process of getting the paper work together or of obtaining medical services.
  • Engage your school district homeless liaisons, private and public shelter providers, HUD Continuum of Care, and other homeless service agencies in your service area to assist in the verification and documentation process.
  • For those children whose records might be damaged, destroyed, or otherwise unavailable, begin to build new records immediately based on information gathered from families, local district or state-level student databases, and any other reliable sources of student information.
Determine whom to contact for verification purposes
  • Ensure that your verification activities do not increase the risk that families may be evicted or suffer other resulting adverse consequences.
  • Ensure that residency verification processes do not jeopardize a family’s living situation.
Ensure medical exams and follow-up, including obtaining the resulting records
  • Develop partnerships with healthcare providers to provide free exams and records to families at no cost.
  • Establish school-based immunization clinics or other opportunities for on-site immunizations or collaborate with community-based organizations or public agencies.
  • Establish immunization databases, school-based immunization clinics, or mobile health units.

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Mary Vanderwert, Collaboration Director
Minnesota Head Start Collaboration Office

Mary Vanderwert is the Director of the Minnosota Head Start State Collaboration Office. Select the link below to hear or read what Mary has to say about obtaining documentation/records in Head Start based on homelessness.

Documentation and enrollment [00:00:25] | Read the transcript

Documentation and enrollment

They don't necessarily need to have all the documentation in a Head Start program before a family starts because they may not have it. So, to take down the barriers that will be in place for families to enroll. So, think about the realities of being homeless in terms of the regulations and the kind of procedures that they require before families are enrolled in their programs.

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Khari Garvin, Collaboration Director
North Carolina Head Start Collaboration Office

Khari Garvin is the Director of the North Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. Select the link below to hear or read what Khari has to say about obtaining documentation/records in Head Start based on homelessness.

Collecting paperwork [00:00:18] | Read the transcript

Collecting paperwork

I think it's important for grantees to understand the requirements that are associated with enrolling homeless families. That is, to serve homeless families immediately and worry about collecting paperwork later, and that's a little bit of a paradigm shift for us in Head Start.

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Last Updated: January 6, 2017