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Tips for Guidance Counselors

Guidance Counselors: Tips for Ensuring Educational Access and Success for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

  • Be familiar with common characteristics of children and youth who are homeless. Common signals are attendance at several schools, poor hygiene, gaps in learning, transportation problems, poor health nutrition, and a lack of preparedness for class. 
  • Introduce yourself as someone who will work as an advocate for the student’s success in school.
  • Ask if the student participated in any after-school activities or had special classes at a previous school, then work to connect the student with similar resources, if they are available; ensure that the student has every opportunity that a non-homeless student has for participation in after-school activities and in-school activities.
  • Make sure the student enrolls in your school’s free meal program. Homeless students are automatically eligible for free school meals. 
  • Inform parents about their child educational rights.
  • Know your attendance zone, visit shelters to make contact with the shelter director, and reinforce that students will find the school safe and supportive.
  • Offer support for the physiological needs of the student (food, clothing) as well as the social/emotional needs (safety, security, and belonging).
  • Train peer buddies to orient students to the school.
  • Arrange a follow-up meeting with parents a couple of weeks after enrollment; you may need to conduct the meeting by phone or visit the parent outside of the school.
  • Show that you care about the student!
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