The term “Unaccompanied Youth” includes youth in homeless situations who are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
An Unaccompanied Youth is typically age 12-21, and reasons for not being in the care of a parent or guardian may vary.
Many youth leave home because they are forced to leave by their parent or other adult. Family conflict, teen pregnancy, gay or lesbian lifestyle or inappropriate behavior are common reasons why teens report they are kicked out. It is important to remember that parents have a legal obligation to provide for their children until that child is 18 years old.
Other youth may leave home on their own, or “runaway”. While many adults assume that youth leave home to be rebellious, this is not often the case with Unaccompanied Youth. Many youth runaway because they do not feel home is a safe environment and often do not have another safe, regular living arrangement. Family conflict, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental health or parent control issues are some of the reasons teens report leaving home. These youth often “couch surf”, live in shelters, cars, or campgrounds. These youth often do not know where they will sleep each night.
Other reasons that youth may leave home may be due to of economic hardship. This is often the case with families who are already low-income and cannot properly take care of the needs of their older children. These youth often leave to reduce the economic burden at home.
No matter your reasons for not living at home, HELP Case Managers are available to assist you. Your educational stability and support in school is our first priority. Success in school is a strong predictor of the ability to overcome poverty and becoming independent. For many Unaccompanied Youth, school is one of the safest, most predictable factors in your life. The HELP Program is there to offer support in enrolling in school, getting to school everyday, staying in school, providing transportation, providing tutors and school supplies.
We are also available to assist you with resources in the community. Henderson County is full of many wonderful programs to assist with family conflict resolution, basic needs, counseling, health care and social services. The HELP Case Managers are non-judgmental, caring and supportive. Everything between you and your HELP Case Manager is confidential. However, if at any time we feel you are in danger or not safe, we are required by law to report our concerns to the proper officials.
Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Unaccompanied Youth have the right to:
- Remain in their school of origin (to the extent feasible)
- Transportation to and from the school of origin
- Immediately enroll in a new school serving the area in which they are currently living even if they don’t have typically required documents (e.g. proof of guardianship)
- Equal access to programs and services such as gifted and talented education, special education, vocational education, and English as a Second Language.
Each local education agency (LEA), otherwise known as school district, must appoint a homeless liaison, whose duties include:
- Helping unaccompanied youth choose and enroll in a school, after considering the youth’s wishes.
- Informing unaccompanied youth of their rights to transportation and assisting youth in accessing transportation.
- Providing unaccompanied youth with notice of their right to appeal school or school district decisions and ensuring that youth are immediately enrolled in school pending resolution of disputes.
For more information please contact: