New Hanover County Schools


Engaging Students, Achieving Excellence



The mission of the McKinney-Vento Program is to ensure that all children and youth experiencing homelessness have access to the educational services to which they are entitled under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

What is McKinney-Vento?

The McKinney-Vento Act ensures that children experiencing homelessness have access to the same free, appropriate public education and related services as their permanently housed peers so that they have an equal opportunity to meet the same challenging academic standards. The act requires State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to remove any barriers that limit the ability of a student experiencing homelessness to enroll, attend, and succeed in school.


Schools must immediately enroll homeless children and youth, even when:

  • School or health records are unavailable at the time of enrollment.
  • Birth certificates are not available.
  • Proof of residency is not available.
  • Students may stay in their school of origin, if feasible.
  • Unaccompanied youth must be provided educational access through the support of the local education liaison.
  • Schools must provide written explanations of placement decisions and the enrollment dispute process.

Must schools enroll students experiencing homelessness who do not have previous schools records?

Yes. Students experiencing homelessness must be enrolled in school while waiting for the previous school records to be received. Parents can request copies of critical documents such as Individualized Educational Program (IEPs), gifted testing records, and report cards from the student's previous school. 

Can a school require proof of residency (rent / lease agreement, utility receipt) that prevents or delays enrollment?

No. Students experiencing homelessness, by definition, lack a fixed residence and cannot be required to provide traditional proof of residency.

Must a school enroll children or youth without proof of immunizations or physicals?

Yes. The school must enroll students who do not have health records if they fall under the definition of homeless. The school should refer the family or youth to the school's social worker or Kathy Newcomb, LEA Liaison for McKinney-Vento, for assistance in obtaining the necessary documentation.  

Attendance and Success

Students with appropriate support are more likely to attend school on a regular basis. Attendance is critical in realizing success in school.

  • Homeless students must receive services comparable to those of housed students.
  • Transportation to the school of origin must be provided, when appropriate.
  • Homeless families and unaccompanied youth must be fully informed of available enrollment options and educational opportunities.
  • Separate schools or programs for homeless children and youth are prohibited, with the exceptions of several programs specifically named in the McKinney-Vento Act.

Who is Homeless?

The McKinney-Vento Definition of Homeless

Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (per Title IX, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act) defines homeless as follows:

The term "homeless children and youths"--

(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and

(B) includes--

(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 adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals;* 

 (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 (within the meaning of section 103(a)(2)(C)); 

 (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 (as such term is defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).

*Per Title IX, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act, "awaiting foster care placement" was removed from the definition of homeless on December 10, 2016; the only exception to his removal is that "covered states" have until December 10, 2017 to remove "awaiting foster care placement" from their definition of homeless.


National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth 

National Center for the Homeless Education 

North Carolina Homeless Education Program

National Network for Youth 

NC Department of Education 

National Coalition for the Homeless 

North Carolina Homeless Education Program

Potential Warning Signs of Homelessness 

Parent Resources

Guide for Parents (English)

Guide for Parents (Spanish)

Educational Rights of Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Children and youth experiencing homelessness have the right to

  • Receive a free, appropriate public education.
  • Enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment, or having missed application or enrollment deadlines during any period of homelessness.
  • Enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents.
  • Enroll in the local attendance area school or continue attending their school of origin (the school they attended when permanently housed or the school in which they were last enrolled), if that is the parent's, guardian's, or unaccompanied youth's preference. If the school district believes the school selected is not in the student's best interest, then the district must provide the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth with a written explanation of its position and inform him/her of the right to appeal its decision.
  • Receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if requested by the parent, guardian, or local liaison on behalf of an unaccompanied youth.
  • Receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students, according to the student's need.

These rights are established under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This act is the primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in U.S. public schools. It was reauthorized by Title IX, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015. To qualify for these rights, children and youth must be considered homeless according to the  McKinney-Vento definition of homeless.


NHCS Data on Homelessness

Number of students experiencing homelessness within New Hanover County Schools

  2014 - 2015       764 students
  2015 - 2016       901 students
  2016 - 2017       740 students
  2017 - 2018       619 students
  2018 - 2019     1522 students

For information contact:
  • Social Worker at your child's school
  • Rebecca McSwain, LEA Liaison for McKinney-Vento
    • 910-251-2947
  • Lisa Phillips
    State Coordinator