Thanks to a new approach to stabilizing fragile families involved with the child welfare system, a 13-year-old and her father get the integrated services they need through supportive housing to stay together as a family.
Keeping Families Together
Children in foster care often go on to lead deeply troubled lives. Research shows that they are at higher risk for impaired neurodevelopment, mental health problems, abuse, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early death.
There is a better way. Keeping Families Together (KFT), an initiative of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, integrates affordable housing with an array of support services to bring stability to families with children who are at risk for recurring involvement in the child welfare system. By providing integrated supports to families with multiple, complex problems—who are often the highest-cost users of social and health services—Keeping Families Together demonstrates promising results in reuniting children with their families in a safe, more stable environment.
With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Corporation for Supportive Housing developed and implemented the KFT program in New York City in 2010, working with 29 families who were either chronically homeless or at risk of being so. A recent evaluation indicates that the pilot has had a successful impact, generating a 91 percent housing retention rate among participating families. By the end of the evaluation period, 61 percent of the child welfare cases open at the time of placement in supportive housing had been closed, and all six children placed in foster care who wanted to reunite with their family had done so. Families in KFT supportive housing had fewer repeat incidents of child maltreatment; more than half of the families that entered the pilot with a substance abuse problem were reported to be clean and sober by the end of the evaluation period; and families saw additional benefits, including an increase in school attendance rates from approximately 60 percent to 80-85 percent. The annual public cost of the KFT pilot, which included operating and supportive-services costs, was just three dollars a day.
Based on the KFT pilot, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families – together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation – is funding a national initiative to more widely test whether supportive housing can help stabilize highly vulnerable families and keep children out of the foster system. The new funding will be used to develop programs in five cities around the country, providing families with a permanent home and the supports they need to stay together.