at Advocates for Children
151 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10001
An unaccompanied youth is a student who is not the physical custody of their parent or legal guardian; this includes young people who have run away from home, have been kicked out of their homes, or have been abandoned by parents. There is no age limit for unaccompanied youth, but these students are most often in their teens. Unaccompanied youth are protected under the McKinney-Vento Act when the student also does not have a fixed, adequate, and regular nighttime residence - click here for a definition of fixed, adequate, and regular. Without a parent or guardian to help, these students may not know about their educational rights or know how to get information about their legal protections. Please click on the links below for resources on unaccompanied youth.
Get answers to commonly asked questions about unaccompanied youth.
This website lists all of the New York State Youth Bureaus by county. Youth Bureaus provide many programs and resources that support youth, from after-school activities to support groups.
This website lists all of the New York State Runaway and Homeless Youth Service Coordinators (by county) as well as contact information for RHY programs and agencies.
Surrogate Parents and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [PDF]
This document was created by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) to help school districts make sure that unaccompanied youth who are homeless and who have disabilities are able to get easy access to special education services.
This NCHE brief reviews basic information about the rights of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness and explains what LEA liaisons can do to assist these students.
Increasing Access to Higher Education for Unaccompanied Youth: Information for Colleges and Universities
This NCHE brief includes a summary of education legislation that gives unaccompanied homeless youth access to educational supports, and examples of practices implemented by high schools, colleges, and universities to assist them in succeeding.Please note: this guidance has helpful resources but does not include changes made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or the expanded protections for unaccompanied youth under ESSA.
NRS' Home Free Program, a collaboration with Greyhound Lines, helps reunite runaway youth with their families, or an alternative living arrangement, through a free bus ticket home. The program has reunited more than 17,000 youth with their families. By connecting to NRS at 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1800RUNAWAY.org, youth can initiate the process to return home or to a safe alternative.
This Toolkit was developed by and for advocates in the runaway and homeless youth (RHY) and domestic and sexual assault prevention fields to help programs better address relationship violence with runaway and homeless youth. The Toolkit organizes information, resources, tips and tools drawn from the lessons learned by collaborative projects funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This report and its accompanying resources from the National Runaway Switchboard provides new research that sheds light on the runaway problem in America and begins to fill in the gaps of what is already known and what can be done to prevent young people from running away.
Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex
This 2015 report from The Urban Institute documents the experiences of LGBTQ youth in New York City who get involved in the commercial sex market in order to meet basic survival needs, or access food or shelter.
This 2015 report summarizes data from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) on OCFS-funded programs that serve runaway and homeless youth. The report includes information from 87 program respondents in 23 counties and New York City.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Transportation Reimbursement Form Recently Updated! [PDF]
Youth who are temporarily living in Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) shelters and who attend their school of origin in a different district from the shelter must receive free transportation to and from school. The school district of attendance must provide transportation and will be eligible for full reimbursement by NYSED. To arrange reimbursement, school districts should submit this form to:
NYSED, P.O. Box 7256
Albany, NY 12224
Please send the completed form with a cover letter that includes:
- your school district's federal ID number;
- the address where the reimbursement check should be sent;
- the name of the runaway and homeless youth shelter;
- the address of the runaway and homeless youth shelter;
- contact information for the Director of the runaway and homeless youth shelter; and
- an assurance from the school district that the facility is a runaway and homeless youth shelter.
If a parent is unable to make education-related decisions for a child, they may temporarily allow another person to make decisions on behalf of the student. N.Y. General Obligations Law § 5-1551. The person who takes on this responsibility is called the "designee" or the "person in parental relation" to the child. The parent can limit the decision-making authority of a person in parental relation to a certain time period or to certain types of decisions, as long as these limitations are described in the designation.
This "Designation of Person in Parental Relationship" form from the Office of Children and Family Services includes a more wide-reaching set of decision-making abilities for the "designee" than the form directly above. For example, this form includes medical decision-making authority, unlike the form above. If a parent is unable to make education or health-related decisions for a child, they may temporarily allow another person to make decisions on behalf of the student. The person who takes on this responsibility is called the "designee" or the "person in parental relation" to the child. The parent can limit the decision-making authority of a person in parental relation to a certain time period or certain types of decisions, as long as these limitations are noted.
School districts may develop a caregiver form that establishes the responsibilities of caregivers and requests caregivers' contact information in place of traditional proof of guardianship for unaccompanied youth. This form is not required, but may be helfpul to schools and to students. Such forms should be carefully created to avoid barriers to a student's full participation in school and should never lead to delays in enrollment because unaccompaied youth are entitled to immediate enrollment under the McKinney-Vento Act. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(3)(C).
Laws and Guidance
Unaccompanied youth are included under the protection of New York State Education Law Section 3209, which went into effect on April 20, 2017, when they also lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. N.Y. Education Law § 3209(1)(a)((1))(v).
On March 2, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education issued updated Non-Regulatory Guidance for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. This revised Non-Regulatory Guidance for the McKinney-Vento program replaces the July 2016 Guidance and includes new Q&A about the amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which take effect on October 1, 2016, and new promising practices for implementing homeless education requirements at the State and local levels.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, Reauthorized by Title IX Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act [PDF]
This document is the full text of the federal reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which went into effect on October 1, 2016. Unaccompanied youth are included under the law's protection when they also lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. 42 U.S.C. § 11434A(6).
U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Determinations [PDF]
This July 29, 2015 Dear Colleague letter from the U.S. Department of Education provides guidance for financial aid administrators about the definition of homelessness, how to make determinations, and documentation. It revises U.S. Department of Education policy so that all applicants under age 24, including those who are 22 or 23 years old, and who are unaccompanied and homeless, or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, qualify for a homeless youth determination and will be considered independent students.
This law addresses a parent's power to designate a "person in parental relation" to a child. If a parent is unable to make education-related decisions for a child, they may temporarily designate another person to make those decisions on behalf of the student.
Financial Aid for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
The U.S. Department of Education's "Application and Verification Guide" (AVG) [PDF] provides instructions and guidance to financial aid administrators and counselors who help students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2017-18 edition contains important information on unaccompanied homeless youth. A summary of the relevant sections is available here.
The section of the New York State General Obligations Law, "Designation of Person in Parental Relation," creates a limited parental power of attorney by legalizing the practice of parents writing notes to schools or to medical providers that allow others to assume responsibility for their children. This law describes how to designate a person in parental relation, who can be designated, and what parental powers can be designated to the person in parental relation.
Upcoming Workshops and Trainings
Stay tuned for our Fall 2018 workshop and training schedule.