While Congress remains deeply divided over issues such as the budget and immigration, many opportunities exist for creating systemic change through state policy. State policy change is especially relevant to addressing youth homelessness, since many of the laws that most directly impact unaccompanied homeless youth –the rights of minors, health care, housing, employment, education, and child welfare – fall within the purview of state legislatures.

SchoolHouse Connection’s state policy program, “Building Teams for Change,” supports state-based teams in achieving lasting, state-level policy changes that will end homelessness for many youth and improve the lives and futures of young people experiencing homelessness in real, measurable ways.

Like our federal policy advocacy, our state policy advocacy embodies the principle that change must be rooted in the realities of local communities, reflect local concerns, and represent locally-devised solutions.

Therefore, our state advocacy begins with surveys of young people and providers to identify policy barriers preventing youth experiencing homelessness from receiving assistance in each state. Then, we convene open stakeholder meetings to review survey results, develop policy proposals, and provide interactive, state-policy training.

Progress Updates

  • August 13, 2018 – Announcing SchoolHouse Connection’s State Advocacy Institute Webinar Series
    • Through Building Teams for Change, we are able to provide on-site advocacy training, called “State Advocacy Institutes” in some states. To share this training with the whole country, we are excited to launch a virtual version of our State Advocacy Institute, via a series of three webinars.
  • May 21, 2018 – Birth Certificates and IDs for Minors: A Problem with a Solution
    • Today, the governor of Tennessee signed HB 2303, which allows children and youth of any age experiencing homelessness to obtain their birth certificate and state ID. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, with only two votes in opposition in the House. Legislators on both sides of the aisle saw the wisdom in eliminating barriers to youth obtaining the documents and services they need.
  • March 16, 2018 – State Policy Progress in Tennessee and Indiana, with Other States to Follow
    • This week, one of our policy proposals unanimously passed out of the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee in Tennessee. The bill, Tennessee HB 2303, would allow unaccompanied homeless youth to obtain their own birth certificates and state IDs without parental signature. It also would require post-secondary institutions to designate Homeless Student Liaisons to assist students experiencing homelessness in receiving financial aid and other services, as well as granting them first priority for housing and placing them in housing facilities that remain open the most days in a calendar year.

State Law Briefs

  • Minor Consent to Routine Medical Care
    • This document includes states with laws allowing minors, including unaccompanied homeless minors, to consent for routine health care. It does not address state laws that empower minors to consent for substance abuse treatment, mental health care, treatment for contagious diseases or reproductive health.
  • Current and Pending State Laws Allowing Unaccompanied Homeless Youth to Consent for Housing and Related Services
    • Several state legislatures have recognized that unaccompanied homeless youth under age 18 need legal rights to access housing, shelter and other basic services. This document summarizes state laws, including recently enacted legislation in Wyoming, and a currently pending bill that SchoolHouse Connection is working on with partners in Arizona.
  • State Laws on High School Graduation for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    • The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) places great emphasis on high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness. This document summarizes state laws that complement these federal requirements. 
  • State Laws Supporting College Students Experiencing Homelessness
    • State legislatures have been actively supporting college students experiencing homelessness over the past few years. This document provides a summary of existing strong state laws. SchoolHouse Connection is working with partners in Texas on a new state law to support the thousands of Texas students striving to complete college without safe, stable housing.

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