Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness and Students in Foster Care


Students experiencing homelessness often end up 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 supports for these two at-risk student groups, especially when students transition between these two categories, is essential to mitigate negative impacts and provide continuity of educational services. 

For educators, providing services to these at-risk student groups is essential. Federal education funding to provide services to students experiencing homelessness is available from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and 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 prong of any plan to help these student subgroups is to identify the students who are eligible for assistance. That first step can sometimes 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 in tandem 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 they are doing everything they can to locate students experiencing homelessness and communicate with them. Districts must provide documentation that they are providing supports related to the educational stability for students in foster care.   

With hundreds of legally compliant translated forms, including a student residency questionnaire, homeless student referral form, and school placement and educational rights notices for both students experiencing homelessness and students 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 different student subgroups. 

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.