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Homeless and Foster Care Information

Definition of Homeless

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), defines “homeless children and youth” (school age and younger) as:  Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth who are residing in the following situations due to a due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.

  • Doubled up with relatives, friends, or strangers;
  • Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds, or abandoned in hospitals;
  • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, bus or train stations, or abandoned buildings;
  • Having a primary nighttime residence that is substandard, or a public/private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodations due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
  • Migratory children or youth living in circumstances described above; and/or
  • Unaccompanied youth, meaning youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, such as runaways and youth denied housing by their families (sometimes referred to as “throwaway” children and youth).


What do families need to know?

  • Children and youth experiencing homelessness have a right to attend school.
  • You do not need a permanent address to enroll your child in school.
  • Children and youth experiencing homelessness can stay in their school of origin or enroll in any public school that students living in the same attendance zone are eligible to attend, whichever circumstance proves to be in the student’s best interest.
  • The Liaison must provide you with a written explanation if a placement or eligibility dispute occurs. Contact your local Homeless Liaison for assistance in handling a dispute.
  • Your child cannot be denied school enrollment because school records or other enrollment documentation are not immediately available.
  • Your child may have the right to transportation services to and from the school of origin if determined in their best interest* (see transportation procedures).
  • Your child has the right to participate in extracurricular activities and all federal, state, or local programs for which he/she is eligible.
  • Unaccompanied youth have these same rights. (Contact your local Homeless Liaison.)
  • McKinney-Vento status provides stability at the school for the duration of the school year. If housing instability continues beyond that school year, you must apply for requalification the following school year.

Legal Reference: The McKinney-Vento Assistance Act (42 U.S. C. 11431 et seq.) at Subtitle B of title VII. (Reauthorized 2002).



Free/Reduced Lunch

Homeless students are entitled to free breakfast and lunch at school and DO NOT need to fill out the Free and Reduced Meals application. Once the parent (or unaccompanied youth) is identified as homeless under McKinney-Vento, the Liaison will submit documentation to the director of food service to ensure students receive free meals.  




RCPS will provide transportation assistance (when in the student’s best interest*) for students approved as McKinney-Vento-eligible so that the student may remain at his/her school of origin. This transportation is arranged through the McKinney-Vento liaison’s office. It may take three to five working days for transportation arrangements to be processed. Once transportation is arranged, the parent/guardian is called and advised of the start date and time of the transportation.

Families who have cars may be provided mileage reimbursement if they provide transportation for the student to and from school. 

*“when in the student’s best interest” is determined by the geographic distance from the school, the age of the student, and the amount of time the student would spend being transported on the each day from the out-of-zone address.


Educational Information for Students in Foster Care

School Admission (from Section JEC of School Policy)

RCPS Foster Care Liaison
Sarah M. Schmidt

Renee Edwards - Alternate Liaison



Community Resources

Essex ECHO
Emergency shelter during cold winter months (December through March)


The Haven 
Domestic Abuse Shelter


Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck Community Services Board (Warsaw)
Emergency mental health assistance
After hours: 1-800-542-2673


Project HOPE
Virginia’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Office


Quin Rivers Homeless Prevention Program
Assistance with rent/utilities if can stay in current housing for 2 weeks


Richmond County Department of Social Services
Short term housing and food assistance


RCPS Liaison Contact Information
Sarah M. Schmidt