The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and four private foundations today announced plans to jointly fund a $35 million initiative to demonstrate how supportive housing can stabilize highly vulnerable families and keep children out of the foster care system. Participating foundations include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.
This unprecedented initiative focuses on the intersection between family homelessness and child welfare and is a vehicle to forge effective relationships between the federal government and national foundation partners. It is based on an innovative and successful pilot effort in New York City that paired supportive housing with on-site case management and a comprehensive array of services for families experiencing chronic homelessness, substance abuse and mental health problems, and child welfare involvement.
The new funding will be used to develop programs in five cities around the country, providing families with a permanent home and the support they need to stay together. Partners hope to expand the collaboration to include local foundations as well. Selected cities will be announced in the fall.
“The research is clear that housing stability alone will not adequately meet the needs of families struggling with multiple challenges, including homelessness and involvement with the child welfare system,” said Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. “This initiative will help those working within child welfare systems and the supportive housing field to improve the functioning and social and emotional well-being of vulnerable children and families.”
A 2002 study published in the American Journal of Community Psychology concluded that homelessness, rather than parental substance abuse or mental illness, is the strongest predictor that children will be removed from their families. Maltreatment, homelessness, parental substance abuse or mental illness and removal from parents all threaten children’s healthy development and well-being.
“By connecting an integrated set of services with a permanent home, supportive housing offers a powerful and cost-effective solution for stabilizing the lives of very fragile families,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are proud to partner with the Administration for Children and Families to demonstrate more widely this promising approach to strengthening families and preventing children’s placement in the foster care system.”
The New York City pilot, known as Keeping Families Together, was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and implemented by the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Its promising results have inspired cautious optimism that a similar strategy could be successful in other communities. An evaluation found that the vast majority of families served by Keeping Families Together still had stable housing three years later. During the same study period, more than half of all open child-welfare cases among the families were closed, all children in foster care were reunited with their families, and overall reports of maltreatment dropped substantially (87percent) during the pilot period. Participating families also saw additional benefits, including an increase in school attendance among children.
“More often than not, the issues of child abuse and neglect that result in children being placed in foster care occur in families that are also experiencing housing instability, suffering with addictions, and living with serious mental health challenges,” said William C. Bell, Ph.D., president and CEO of Casey Family Programs. “None of these issues can be effectively addressed in isolation. This initiative is a promising example of how integrated efforts between public and private partners can provide life-sustaining hope for vulnerable children and their families.
”If successful, partners in this initiative anticipate that this intervention could become standard practice for dramatically improving outcomes for families struggling with homelessness and child welfare engagement, with benefits to the system as a whole. Supportive-housing programs have been shown to cost 70 percent less than foster care, and an estimated average annual savings of $35 million per year per state is possible if sufficient supportive housing were available.
“We are deeply concerned about the struggles many families encounter when trying to access and keep decent housing for themselves and their children,” said Patrick T. McCarthy, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “We believe that the Administration for Children and Families initiative has a real chance to prevent children from becoming unnecessarily involved with the child welfare system and make a difference in the lives of children and families across the country. We are pleased to join with other foundations in support of the initiative.
”The Administration on Children, Youth and Families has budgeted $25 million for five years to fund the services. In addition, the agency will work with the partner foundations on a formal evaluation to measure the intervention’s impact on housing stability, health and social and emotional outcomes among children and caregivers, as well as the need for involvement with the child-welfare system. The foundations also will underwrite technical assistance for all sites supported through this initiative. By leveraging unique skills and assets across different partners and sectors, this initiative aims to produce outcomes with potentially greater impact than could be achieved independently. Read the Administration for Children and Families’ notice of funding announcement.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States. It was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of UPS, and his siblings, who named the Foundation in honor of their mother. The primary mission of the Foundation is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. In pursuit of this goal, the Foundation makes grants that help states, cities, and communities fashion more innovative, cost-effective response to these needs. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.
About Casey Family Programs
Casey Family Programs is the nation’s largest operating foundation whose work is focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building communities of hope for all of America’s children and families. Casey Family Programs work in partnership with child welfare systems, families and communities across the nation to prevent child abuse and neglect and to find safe, permanent and loving families for all children. We believe every child deserves a family of their own and a community of hope. For more information, visit www.casey.org.
About the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) seeks to transform the life prospects of America’s most vulnerable young people and help them become independent, productive adults. To accomplish this, EMCF makes large, long-term investments, frequently in partnership with other funders, in nonprofits with a commitment to growth and compelling evidence that their programs help economically disadvantaged youth, ages 9-24, get an education, find and keep employment, or avoid pregnancy and crime. Through these investments, EMCF seeks to expand the pool and impact of organizations that can make a real and enduring difference in the lives of greater numbers of young people at greatest risk of failing to reach positive adulthood.