According to section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a(2)), the term "homeless children and youths"—
(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence...; and
(i) children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
(ii) children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings…;
(iii) children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
(iv) migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).
Children and youth are considered homeless if they fit both part A and any one of the subparts of part B of the definition above.
Excerpt from The Office of Head Start Policy Clarification (OHS–PC– I–086) states:
"...In determining whether a child is living in "substandard housing," Head Start staff must evaluate whether the child's housing situation falls short of community standards or is of lower quality than the law prescribes. Staff should consider factors such as whether there are health and safety concerns related to the housing; the number of occupants per square foot; the age(s) of the occupants; and whether the housing meets State or local building codes. Does a comparison of the housing in question with community norms and laws lead staff to conclude that it is lower than what community norms or laws require?..."
When a new family arrives, ask if they have a transition card from their previous program. If they do, obtain parent consent for transfer of records, contact the former program, and arrange for the release of information and transfer of records.
Complete a new transition card for the family. On the back of the card, include enrolled siblings.
Give the new card to the family when they enroll or just before they leave your program. Ask them to keep it in a safe place and to show it to the next program during enrollment or to the elementary school.
Kim Garcia, Family Advocate
Head Start of Elko, Nevada
Kim Garcia is a family advocate who works with families in homeless situations in the Head Start of Northeastern Nevada in Elko Nevada. Select the link below to hear or read what Kim has to say about transitioning in Head Start for families experiencing homelessness.
Homeless children and families in Early Head Start and Head Start really need support. They need compassion, they need understanding. When they transition to Head Start, I think continuity of care is really critical… that a family doesn't have to start all over with a different caseworker or a different group of employees or staff. You know, it's just very streamlined, you can just continue to move forward in making great progress.