• January-February 2016
  • Vol. 16, No. 10

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Ending Homelessness With Interagency Data Sharing

Programs to prevent and end homelessness require collaboration with school systems, housing providers, and social service organizations. These community partners can better serve families, children, and youth experiencing homelessness when they can share data on the characteristics and needs of these families. However, the need to maintain the privacy of students' education records, as required by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), has raised concerns among some school systems about what kinds of data they are allowed to share.

In order to address those concerns, and to promote effective and careful data sharing that falls in line with FERPA, the Department of Education and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released a publication, Interagency Data Disclosure: A Tip Sheet on Interagency Collaboration. The tip sheet shares background on Federal requirements and provides guidance to help State and local education agency homeless education programs; housing and human service agencies; and organizations serving homeless families, children, and youth better coordinate their services by disclosing student data and information with each other. The tip sheet also discusses the privacy rights and protections in FERPA and focuses on the following areas of student data sharing:

  • Schools may disclose nonidentifying information or statistical data about students when proper public notice is given about the information that is to be shared.
  • School districts may consider offering annual reports about homeless youth in their schools, with all identifying information removed.
  • Schools and school systems can take part in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) annual point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness.
  • The school district’s homelessness liaison can discreetly refer homeless youth and families to resources and let point-in-time volunteers know where homeless youth may congregate.
  • Because homeless youth and families may be served by multiple agencies, school systems can coordinate their information with data collected via HUD's Continuum of Care Housing Management Information System.

The tip sheet also features examples of communities that have integrated school and continuum of care data and implemented effective data-sharing and integration strategies to serve homeless families, children, and youth more effectively.

The tip sheet is available on the U.S. Department of Education website at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/homeless/ehcy-interagency-data-disclosure.pdf (301 KB).

An overview is available from the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, a service of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, at http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/news/2015/07/new-tip-sheet-sharing-data-about-youth-experiencing-homelessness.
 

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