Providing Support to Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth

We have been spending the last few weeks beginning to understand the challenges and barriers to unaccompanied youth, and the McKinney Vento resources that are available to help them. This week we seek to understand the challenges and barriers that unaccompanied immigrant youth face when coming to our country. Further, we will review some of the resources that are available to aid these youth in our schools.


Who are unaccompanied immigrant youth?

Defining “unaccompanied” in immigrant youth can take many different interpretations based on the state in which the youth are being placed. For our purposes, we will be focusing on New York State law:

Unaccompanied youth are defined as youth who are not in the physical custody of their parents or legal guardian and are living in a temporary housing arrangement (See 42 U.S.C. §11434a[6]; Education Law §3209[1][a][1][v]; and 8 NYCRR §100.2[x][1][iii][6]). This definition refers to all unaccompanied children and youth in temporary housing between the ages of 5 and 21, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, who are residing in New York State.


Immigrant children receive the same protections as any other child that qualifies for McKinney-Vento benefits. For more information, please see the legislation on immigrant youth here.


There are some uncomfortable issues that many liaisons face when identifying and providing services to students that are considered McKinney-Vento eligible. Feeding and providing support to young children regardless of their citizenship or immigration status is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian one. We must work as a unit to protect ALL children in our schools and to understand the enormous impact that being unaccompanied and so far from home and family can have on any child. For more reading on immigrant youth and trauma, please visit this link.


How can liaisons assist unaccompanied immigrant youth?

  • There are a number of ways that liaisons can provide support to immigrant youth. Please see the May 2021 field memo from NYSED here.

  • Did you know the NYS-TEACHS website also has a large resource library? You can find many answers to your questions on immigrant youth right here.

  • On February 17th, NYS-TEACHS will host a three-part web series: Becoming Trauma-Informed to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness. Space is LIMITED! You can register at the link below or right here.

  • The important thing to know is that you are not alone when helping and providing support to unaccompanied immigrant youth. For additional reading and sources, please see the National Immigrant Justice Center and also New York State’s Bilingual and English as a New Language page.

This month at NYSTEACHS:

  • Get to know our new website: https://www.nysteachs.org/

  • If you missed our website walkthrough, you can check it out here.

  • Our upcoming web series on Becoming Trauma-Informed to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness, Part 1, will be held on February 17, 2022. You can register right here!

Next week in the blog series: Strategies and Supports for Unaccompanied Youth


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