Who are Children and Youths in Transition?

What is meant by the term “children and youths in transition?”

Section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Act defines “children and youths in transition as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes: children and youths who:

  • are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as “doubled-up” or “couch surfing”);
  • are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
  • are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or
  • are abandoned in hospitals;
  •  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;
  • are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above

Are children who are awaiting foster care placement still eligible for services under the McKinney-Vento Act?

The McKinney-Vento Act no longer includes children and youths who are awaiting foster care placement in the definition of “children and youths in transition” and will no longer be considered homeless and will therefore not be eligible for McKinney-Vento services unless they meet the revised definition of “children and youths in transition”. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the ESSA, includes new provisions for ensuring the educational stability of children in foster care under Title I, Part A. Joint U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidance on those provisions can be found here. 

What criteria may a Local Education Agency (LEA) consider when determining if a child or youth lives in “substandard housing”?

The inclusion of substandard housing in the definition of children and youths in transition has caused some confusion because standards for adequate housing may vary by locality. In determining whether a child or youth is living in “substandard housing,” an LEA may consider whether the setting in which the family, child, or youth is living lacks one of the fundamental utilities such as water, electricity, or heat; is infested with vermin or mold; lacks a basic functional part such as a working kitchen or a working toilet; or may present unreasonable dangers to adults, children, or persons with disabilities. Each city, county, or State may have its own housing codes that further define the kind of housing that may be deemed substandard.

Guidance on minimal housing standards:

Adequate housing standards adapted from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Home must have separate kitchen and bathroom
  • Kitchen must have functional stove or range with oven
  • Home must have food refrigeration
  • Kitchen must have space for storage, preparation and serving of food
  • Home must have hot and cold running water
  • As least one bathroom must have a bathtub or shower, flush toilet, sink, and ensure privacy
  • Bathrooms must have window or vent
  • Every sleeping room must have a window or door providing access to the outside
  • Security locks must be on all outside doors
  • Windows must have insect screens
  • All habitable rooms must have at least two electrical outlets
  • Dwellings must have proper heating facilities
  • Home must have a solid foundation
  • Home must provide shelter from the weather; roof does not leak
  • Home must be free from insects or rodent infestation
  • Home must be of adequate size; a single-family dwelling should house no more that five unrelated persons