Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness and Students in Foster Care


This blog was updated on July 25th, 2023.

Students experiencing homelessness are most likely in foster care, and when students in foster care age out of the system, they often end up being identified as students experiencing homelessness.  

Providing support for these two at-risk student groups is essential to mitigate negative impacts and provide continuity of educational services. Federal education funding to provide services to students experiencing homelessness is available from:

  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
  • Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Students in foster care and students experiencing homelessness are both categorically eligible for some supports, like the USDA free and reduced-price meals program.  

A lack of coordination between schools and community service partners can result in fragmented services when continuity of services is desperately needed. 

Reaching highly mobile students  

The first step to help these student subgroups is to identify the students who are eligible for assistance. This can be difficult due to the stigma associated with the student’s living situation as students are often hesitant to self-identify.  

The Homeless Information Management System for Students (HIMSS) helps school homeless liaisons and community service providers stay connected by providing:  

  • Automated emails to service partners for health service providers or social workers when students' homeless status and/or foster care status is confirmed  
  • Optional logins so service partners can access the system remotely
  • Track enrollment and service history even if a student transfers schools   

HIMSS is a data management system created for homeless program administrators and designed to help meet annual McKinney-Vento reporting requirements.   

Regularly Collect Student Data  

Once identified, the HIMSS software can track the assistance students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and their families receive in and out of school.   

All information is accessible online, via the web, and various security levels ensure data security and privacy.  

HIMSS keeps track of the services given, the number of students experiencing homelessness or in foster care, and certain health and academic documents.  

Evidence of Compliance 

Using TransACT's ParentNotices with HIMSS can support Homeless Liaisons and Foster Care Points of Contact to the fullest. ParentNotices provides letters, public notices, and forms needed to help District Homeless Liaisons meet the federal parent and family communication requirements associated with homeless programs. 

In a state compliance monitoring visit, districts need proof that they are doing everything they can to locate and communicate with students experiencing homelessness. Districts must provide documentation that they are providing support related to the educational stability for students in foster care.   

There are hundreds of legally compliant translated forms, including:

  • A student residency questionnaire
  • Homeless student referral form
  • School placement and educational rights notices for students experiencing homelessness and in foster care.

ParentNotices can facilitate communication between the school and the student and family. Visit our website or contact us for a conversation about how TransACT products help identify and communicate with students experiencing homelessness and students in foster care.

Alyssa Thornley

About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.