What is a McKinney Vento Liaison, and why would they be superheroes?
As the Director of Youth and Scholarship Programs I’ve had the pleasure to work with several McKinney Vento Liaisons and I have noticed that they are Secret Superheroes. They are quietly working to help the most vulnerable population, homeless children. They are showing up, often after hours or on the weekend, to ensure that these children have the support they need to attend school. I thought I’d explain a bit about the program, so that when I mention a McKinney Vento Liaison, we all know I mean Secret Superhero. *
McKinney Vento is a little publicized 1978 Federal Law that requires each school district in the United States to have at least one person designated to help homeless students. Some districts have a full time McKinney Vento Liaison (MVL), most districts have an employee who add their MVL duties along with other social services jobs, like guidance counselor or social worker. Small districts may have a teacher or an administrator that have taken on the MVL duties.
These MVL are the bridge between the school, the student, and the social services system. The local MVL will know just where to go for the best food bank, which homeless shelter will allow pets, where homeless families can get a shower, and who to contact when students need to be rescued from their current living circumstances.
The MVL is tasked with recognizing students who fit the definition of homelessness, “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence….” This can mean doubling up, motel living, shelters, living out of a vehicle and simply unhoused. An unaccompanied youth is defined as “a homeless child or youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian” [42 USC § 11434a].
Students who are homeless are entitled to free services. It is the duty of the MVL to ensure that the student is receiving all the resources entitled to them to ensure continued attendance. The MVL becomes the students’ advocate to provide the supports they need.
One of the main goals of the McKinney Vento program is to keep students in their school of origin. It is proven that students who remain at the school they are familiar with are more successful and have a higher completion rate at every grade. By maintaining relationships with students and staff, the homeless youth are more likely to attend class. Children with at least one encouraging adult mentor are 40% more likely to have a positive educational outcome.
Washington Masonic Charities works closely with MVL’s across the state. McKinney Vento Liaison professionals do amazing work to keep these students safe. MVL’s work tirelessly for all homeless students in their district. The students that WAMC focuses on, the unaccompanied homeless youth, are particularly difficult to identify and engage. Most of these students have left home because of dysfunction and tend to be untrusting and reluctant to accept help. In many cases the help we offer may be the first time a stranger has ever done something for them with no strings attached. Our assistance is designed to “fill in the gaps” of other programs.
Many other programs are subject to restrictions or red tape that makes getting assistance to the youth arduous. We at Washington Masonic Charities can help students within a matter of hours. We have the agility and autonomy to make fast and decisive moves to assist the unaccompanied homeless youth in Washington State. In working with local MV Liaisons we have helped students with a variety of needs that may have gone unfulfilled without our help. The MVL knows that we at Washington Masonic Charities will do everything we can to fulfill any request that falls in the scope of our mission.
These Liaisons are not just doing a job. Liaisons are ensuring that our youth, who have all the cards stacked against them, get all the help they can to succeed. These Liaisons are faced with the pain and desperation of these children every day. The liaisons are fighting for the future of these children in a system that often overlooks them. Yet, they show up the next day, and the next, and the next and then for the next child…
It is a work of heart. That is why McKinney Vento Liaisons are Secret Superheroes. *
If you would like to help Washington Masonic Charities in their work with Unaccompanied Homeless Youth please click this link: Click Here to Donate
If you have questions or would like to get involved with the program please contact Kirsten@wa-masoniccharitites.org or call at (253) 267-8506
*Although others may hold this opinion, this is Kirsten’s only and in no way implies that there are not many other Secret Superheroes in all walks of life.
*I understand that all Superheroes are Secret, but these professionals are very good at being undercover.
*This is the opinion of Kirsten Putman and all criticism should reflect only on her. All praise should be sent freely throughout the world.
Superhero Clipart is from here: <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/abstract’>Abstract vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com</a>
Cape photo is from CraftyLittlePear on ETSY
Statistics are from https://nche.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/youth.pdf