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Homeless & Foster Care Programs


Foster Care

Foster Care & Student Success

Foster Care & Student Success, housed in Texas Education Agency’s Division of Federal and State Education Policy maintains resources and information to advance the eduction of students impacted by foster care. The resources and materials provide guidance related to the unique circumstances surrounding students who are in the foster care system and attend public schools. In Texas, nearly 16,000 school-aged students are in foster care at any given time.

The Foster Care & Student Success Web content is divided into the following areas:

Foster Care & Student Success Resource Guide

TEA developed a premier resource to support Texas schools in addressing the education of students in Foster care: Texas Foster Care & Student Success Resource Guide (PDF) . This guide is the product of collaboration with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the Supreme Court of Texas, and the Permanent Judicial Commissiion for Children, Youth and Families (Children’s Commission). This e-guide and training manual contains a variety of key researched-based topics and calls attention to important matters related to the education of students in foster care. The guide promotes best practices and contains numerous tips, tools, resources, and links to more information.

Who are Homeless Children and Youth?

Before schools can be certain they are complying with legislation related to educating students experiencing homelessness, they must understand who can be considered homeless. The McKinney-Vento Act (Sec. 725) defines “homeless children and youths’ (school-aged and younger) as:

  • Children and youths who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youths who are:
  • Sharing the housing of other persons temporarily due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
  • Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
  • Abandoned in hospitals;
  • Awaiting foster care placement;
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations;
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings;
  • Migratory children who quality as homeless because they are living in the circumstances described above;
  • The term unaccompanied youth includes a youth, not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. This would include runaways living in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, on the streets, or in other inadequate housing: children and youths denied housing by their families (sometimes referred to as “throwaway children and youths”); and school-age unwed mothers living in h omes for unwed mothers because they have no other housing available.

Unaccompanied Youth

These are youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. This would include youth living in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, on the streets, or in other inadequate housing and children and youth denied housing by their families (sometimes referred to as “throwaway” children and youth), and school-age unwed mothers, living in homes for unwed mothers, who have no other housing available.

In determining whether or not a child or youth is homeless, consider the relative permanence of the living arrangements. Determination of homelessness should be made on a case-by-case basis.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

The education provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act, which are now incorporated within Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to ensure educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The law directly applies to homeless unaccompanied youth who also receive some special attention within the Act.

The Act’s Key Provisions

The McKinney-Vento Act (Section 725) specifies and protects the rights of children and youth in homeless situations. Highlights include:

  • Immediate Enrollment. The right to be enrolled immediately in school without immunization or academic records, and birth certificate, regardless of district policy.
  • Transportation. Students in highly mobile or homeless situations are entitled to transportation to and from the school of origin. If it is feasible, in the student’s best interest, and requested by the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth.
  • Services. Students experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same programs and services that are availablel to other children in the District, such as gifted and talented education, special education, vocational education, English Language Learner services, and tutoring. Students are automatically eligible for Title I services and District must set aside funds as necessary to provide services.

Homeless Student School Choice

Students who are experiencing homelessness have the right to attend school in their school of origin or in the school in the attendance area where the family or youth is currently residing. School of origin is defined as the school in which the child/youth was enrolled when they became homeless or the school in which the child/youth was last enrolled. The campus a child attends is determined by which campus can serve the best interests of the child. In Texas, a student experiencing homelessness may enroll in any district they choose, regardless of the location of their residence, school of origin or attendance zone campus.

Dispute Resolution – If problems arise between the school and parents or between districts, the parent shall be referred to the school’s homeless liaison. In the meantime, the student must remain in school and receive transportation.

  • Homeless / Foster Parent & Family Engagement Liason
  • Barbie Birnbaum
  • 512-273-2522 EXT 1308


Information for Parents in English Information for Parents in Spanish

Information for Families

Información para Padres de Jóvenes en Edad Escolar

Information for Youth in English Information for Youth in Spanish

Information for Youth

Información para Jóvenes en Edad Escolar