Master Session: How Housing Matters for Families in the Child Welfare System

Master Session: How Housing Matters for Families in the Child Welfare System


Speaker: Thank you for those who
are joining us in the room and are joining us Live Stream. We are glad to have our first
master session focus on the intersection of homelessness and
child welfare, and we welcome our distinguished panel of
experts in the field. The panel will be moderated by
Sarah Hunter, our federal colleague at the Department of Housing
and Urban Development. We know that many of you in the
audience, as well as our virtual audience, have valuable experience
in this area, and I want to encourage you to join us in the
lively discussion that’s going to be happening in the room and also
through the interactive features through the live stream. So thank you, and I will turn
it over now to Sarah Hunter. Sarah Hunter: Thank you.
Good morning, everyone. How are you doing? Good. Great. Good morning to everyone online, also. Thanks for joining us virtually
for the session this morning. We are gathered for the session on
how housing matters for families in the child welfare system. We will be talking a bit today
about the prominent housing interventions for families that
are out in our country today and talking a little bit about the
intersections of that with child welfare. I’m joined here on stage by three
great colleagues in the field, and to my left, far
left, is Mary Cunningham. She’s at the Urban Institute. Mary focuses on programs and
policies aiming to end homelessness and also affordable housing issues
in the country and how families can access opportunity better. Welcome, Mary. To my other left here is Beth Shinn. She’s from Vanderbilt University. Beth researches ways that we
can improve our efforts to end homelessness around the country. And then, to my right, we have Mike
Pergamit from the Urban Institute, also. And Mike focuses on integrating and
accessing public benefits and services. So thank you all for
joining us this morning. We’re very excited to be with you. And with that, I’m just going
to do a little bit of an overview of our session today. So we’re going to do kind of a
little bit of a nontraditional session, so we’re going to do a
little bit of time speaking to you about some of the issues around
housing and child welfare that are out in the field right now. I’m going to do a little bit of
question and answer with our panel, and then we’re going to turn it
over both to you in the audience here in the room and then also to
the audience online to be able to take questions for you as you have them. For folks online, if you have
questions, you can submit your questions into the chat box right
away, as soon as you have them. As soon as you think of
them, just type them right up. There are folks in the room here
who are collecting those questions, and they will bring them to me
when we get to the Q&A portion of today’s session. And before we dive into hearing
from our panelists, we actually have a video that I want to pull
up for you and show you that talks a little bit about one woman’s
experience with the child welfare system, experience with
homelessness, and how that has impacted her family. Let’s just spend a few minutes
listening to this video, and after the video, we will talk again. Speaker: Before I started the
program, I was in a relationship for six months. He became very violent
towards me, towards my kids. DHS got involved. My children were removed
from me for safety reasons. Pretty much, they told me that
I either left Joe or I’d lose my parental rights to my kids, not
because I was a bad parent, but he was not safe for them, and I wasn’t
able to keep them safe around him. So I ended up in a homeless shelter. That’s when my DHS worker had
told me about the program PUSH. Speaker: Can you tell me what it is? Something special? Speaker: I have never met a
parent that didn’t love their kid, who didn’t want the best for their kids. They just have a lot of complex
issues that they don’t know how to sort through, they don’t
know how to navigate. And our system doesn’t help, because
we make our system very complex. If you look at the research on the
homeless, the majority are young parents with young children. Our families have an open child
welfare case, they are homeless or unstably housed, and have multiple
complex needs such as mental health issues, domestic
violence, substance abuse. Families are housed within 14 days. They come into a furnished apartment. We don’t want families to
worry about furnishings, food, any of the basic needs. We make sure they’re taken care
of so they can solely focus on all these multiple needs they have. Speaker: I think having a roof
over our heads and a place to come home to every night, that
took a huge stress off. I was able to actually focus
on what DHS had expected of me, where before I put off all of
that because my main concern was, where am I going to sleep tonight? Speaker: Our state, like many
states across the country, are very fragmented in terms
of how they deliver services. So we will deliver mental health services
here and domestic violence services here. What our project is trying to do,
we have — our staff are called service coordinators, and they are
the single point of contact for all the services that the families need. The DHS work with us so the family sees
one aligned plan that they have to do. Speaker: They laid out very
clear what they want from you. Without the family team meeting,
I think it would be chaos. Speaker: Sometimes either the
family doesn’t have the skills to listen and understand, or the team
members don’t have the skills to explain what the family needs to
do, so as PUSH, we really ask those hard questions. Where are we at, and
where do we need to go? Where does the family need to
be, and how do we get there? Speaker: The family team meeting
really is the key to developing the plan for the family, but also
the over time constant review – Sarah Hunter: Thanks. I
think one of the things that I appreciate most about that
video is that while it is just one family’s experience, it
illustrates so well how both simple the needs are of the
family — and at its core, we all need a place to live — and
yet how complex it is to actually make all of the pieces kind of fall
together to actually have an apartment or a house and also
be working toward all the child welfare goals that a family needs to work
toward in order to preserve the family. So thanks for bearing with us with
that video, and with that, I think it sets a great foundation. And I will turn it over to Mary
to do a little more of that. Mary Cunningham: Thank you. Okay, good morning. My name is Mary. I’m a researcher at the Urban Institute. I’m a housing researcher, and
since we are here to talk about how housing matters for families who
are involved in the child welfare system, we thought it would be
really important to start by giving you the lay of the land in terms of
what does the housing picture look like in the United States right
now and just give you a sense of what’s coming, as well. I think most people in this room
would not be surprised to hear that we have a severe affordable housing
shortage in the United States. Not a surprise there. But when you dig really deeply into
the numbers, you can see, actually, the numbers are showing that
it’s getting worse, not better, and that over the next decade, it
will probably get a lot worse unless something really
significant is done about it. So right now, we have a severe gap
in the number of affordable units for low-income families. There are only about 28 units
available that are affordable for every 100 extremely low-income household
in the United States that needs it. That’s a big gap to fill. And what we know is that it’s
getting worse, not better. There is significant pressure
on the housing market because the number of renters is
increasing significantly. We’ve had about eight million new
renters added to the pool of people who are competing for
affordable housing in the market. We know that affordable housing
resources are declining as well as, in the private market, a lot of the
affordable housing stock is aging and going offline. So unless there is something
significant happening in terms of federal resources, it
will get a lot worse. And I don’t mean to sound like the
sky is falling, but it really — [off mic] outlook. And this isn’t a problem that only affects
sort of big cities or on the coasts. In every state there is a
significant proportion of renters who are severely cost burdened. For non-housing people out there,
that means that you are paying more than 50 percent of your income
towards rent each month, which obviously doesn’t leave a lot
of room for margins of error, for emergencies, health crises, or
other unexpected expenses when you are paying so much for rent. And it leaves people pretty
vulnerable both to housing instability, moving
frequently, or homelessness. So there are about 11.2 million
renters across the United States, households, that are
severely cost burdened. And urban.org actually has a pretty
cool map online where you can go and look at your community and see
how many people are cost burdened and what the gap is,
if you are interested. So why does this matter
for child welfare agencies? We have known for a long time that
affordable housing is a problem, but when we look at the data, we
can see that there is a pretty big overlap in the families who are
moving through the homeless system and the families who are moving
through the child welfare system. We know from research on the
homelessness side that a very big share of homeless families have
child welfare involvement, many as young children, but also as
adults with their own children. About 20 to 40 percent — some
single-site studies in New York and Philadelphia show that about 20 to
40 percent of families involved in the child welfare system have had
some interaction — families in the homeless system have had some
interaction with the child welfare system. And we don’t have a full picture. That’s usually from matching up
shelter data with child welfare data. On the child welfare side, we don’t
have a full picture here, but we do know that about 11 percent of
children who are placed in foster care, one of the circumstances of their
placement is inadequate housing. So we need a lot more data on this. We need a clearer picture of the
need of families, both in the child welfare system who have housing
issues and in the homelessness system. But we know for sure that
there is a pretty big overlap. So given that child welfare
agencies are not housing agencies but are still responsible for the
safety, permanency, and well-being of children, it’s really
important to think about housing. And like I said, I know that child
welfare agencies are not housing agencies and don’t have
control of the housing resources in your community. But there are a lot of — albeit
scarce, but there are resources in communities that child welfare
agencies have been accessing and thinking about trying to operate
smarter, thinking about if housing matters a lot for families — which
we are going to hear from Beth and Mike about how much it does
— what should we be doing? Because, as Sarah said in the
beginning, if you really don’t have a home or stable housing, it’s very hard
to work on your child welfare issues, seek substance use treatment,
find a job, become a better parent. And so really having that
stability is important. So there is a range
of options out there. I know some child welfare agencies
have used some of their own resources to provide security
deposit, first month’s rent, to get people, get families
into housing quickly. There is a program, Rapid Rehousing,
which I’m sure many of you know. Maybe some of you don’t, but sort
of a lighter touch program that homeless service agencies that are
local continuums of care operate in your community that helps homeless
families get back into housing with maybe a security deposit and
short-term rental assistance. There are some child welfare
agencies that have partnered with homeless organizations to
access those resources for their child welfare families. There is also FUP housing vouchers,
which is modeled on the Section 8 program, or Housing Choice Voucher
program, we call it now, for a long time, that provides housing, a deep
housing subsidy for families who are actually involved in
the child welfare system. And then, for families who are
really high need, that have mental health issues or physical
disabilities or substance use challenges, multiple needs,
homelessness and housing problems, supportive housing is a pretty
intense intervention that we are now, with ACYF, Children’s Bureau,
testing out with a five-site demonstration to provide supportive
housing for families that are involved in the child welfare system. And that is really linking a
deep housing subsidy with really intensive wrap-around services
to help families maintain their housing stability and also to help
get their kids back or prevent removal. And that Supportive Housing
Demonstration is going on right now, and Urban is part
of the evaluation team. And I know I see some
faces right up front. I want people who are involved
— it’s a five-site demonstration. If you’re one of the sites,
can you raise your hands? These are the people in the
audience who are doing the work of serving families and
implementing the demonstration. You see their hands. If you’re interested in supportive
housing, you should really talk to them, find them after, and hear
about how they are implementing it in their community. The last thing I will say —
and I’m probably out of time — is that one of the things that we’re
learning and also struggling with, we’re learning about, we’re
struggling with, but we are really trying to understand how housing
first works for child welfare involved families. So as a part of the Supportive
Housing Demo, the sites were really encouraged to provide housing
first, at the beginning of their child welfare case open or
interaction, with the idea that housing really can be a foundation
and a platform for helping families achieve their case plans, achieve
the outcomes that they need to achieve, to get their kids back
or to keep families together. And that is sometimes, in a child
welfare context, complicated, but a lot of the sites
are figuring it out. And so, in order to really make
housing matter for — did I do that? I don’t think so — for families,
providing it really upfront first is really important. I will end there. There we go. Sarah Hunter: Perfect. And clearly,
with the first couple of slides that Mary talked about, housing
stability is an issue for a lot of families across the country. And it’s not something that we
have the resources to address right away, but we are working on that. And I will talk a little
bit about that more later. The other thing that I would say
is, in addition to the list of housing interventions that Mary
laid out is the plain old vanilla Housing Choice Voucher that doesn’t
have a service stream attached to it. And Beth will talk a
little bit more about that. She’s going to talk to us a little
bit about a large study that she has undertaken called
the Family Options Study. It’ll talk a little bit about some
of the effectiveness of some of these housing interventions. Marybeth Shinn: Okay. Thank you,
Sarah, and good morning, everyone. So this is a large study conducted
with APT Associates, so they should get some credit, too. What we did in 12 communities
around the country is a randomized experiment examining three
housing and service interventions. The first was permanent subsidy,
the Housing Choice Vouchers that hold family’s expenses to
30 percent of their income, their expenses for rent and utilities. And the theory behind Housing
Choice Vouchers, or permanent subsidies, is that people become homeless
because they can’t afford housing. Fix the homelessness, and that
creates a platform for people to deal with everything else. The second intervention
was transitional housing, a very different theory. This is housing with intensive
psychosocial services, case management, for up to 24 months. And the theory here is that people
who become homeless must address problems in order to achieve
stability, to lay the foundation for later stability. Third is rapid rehousing,
as Mary mentioned. These are temporary rental
subsidies with some housing-related services and some job-related
services lasting up to 18 months, typically shorter than that. And the theory is still that it’s
a housing affordability problem, but the goal is to get people back into
conventional housing as fast as possible. And the last intervention is usual care. It was whatever is
available in the communities. So we randomized people through
an offer of one of these special interventions or to usual care. Our study families were fairly
typical of families who become homeless in the United States. A typical family was a woman around
29 years old with one or two children. The median income was $7,400. That’s [off mic] income. These are desperately poor families. Thirty percent had psychological
distress or PTSD symptoms. Sixty-three percent had a
prior episode of homelessness. Although most people who become
homeless are homeless just once, we have a big pool of people who
have been homeless previously, coming back into shelters. And also we required that folks
be in shelters for at least a week before we took them into the
study because if people can resolve homelessness quickly, and many can, then we
don’t need these heavy-duty interventions. A little over a quarter had a spouse
or partner with them in shelter. Another 10 percent had a spouse
or partner who was not in shelter, typically because of shelter rules
that still can’t accommodate men. And interestingly, 24 percent had a
child who was not with them in shelter. Those were almost all
informal separations. Less than one percent had
a child in foster care. So most of these families were not
child welfare involved at the point they came into the shelter. There is an overlap between
the systems, but it’s often homelessness that comes first. We looked at outcomes in five
domains: housing stability; adult well-being; family
preservation, particularly important for the child welfare context; child
well-being; and self-sufficiency. And here is an example of the findings. I won’t drag you through this kind
of detail everywhere, but here is what permanent subsidies did in
comparison to usual care, large improvements in housing stability. So for self-reported homelessness over
the last six months, more than half. For shelter stay in the last
seven to 18 months is recorded in management information
system records, almost halved. For doubling up in the last
six months, more than halved. So enormous impacts on housing stability
from the housing subsidy intervention. So half of usual care families had
either been in shelter or doubled up recently in the last six months,
and subsidies reduced homelessness and doubling up by more than half. Rapid rehousing and transitional
housing had little effect here. One in seven of our usual care
adults reported alcohol or drug dependency, and one in eight reported
intimate partner violence recently. And subsidies reduced some of
these things that can lead to both homelessness and child
welfare involvement. So housing subsidies without
any additional services reduced dependence on alcohol and drugs by
about a third and intimate partner violence by more than half. Subsidies also reduced
psychological distress. So getting people stabilized really
helped all of these other aspects of their functioning. Fifteen percent of our usual care
families had a child who was with them in shelter at the outset. We already had kids separated at
the outset, but 15 percent of those who had a child with them
in shelter at the outset were separated — had that child
separated from their family at some point in the last six months. Many of those separations were ongoing. Four percent had a child placed in
foster care in that six-month period, so we are beginning to see foster
care creep up in these families. Subsidies reduced those informal
separations by about 40 percent, by about two-fifths. They reduced the foster care
placements by three-fifths. So the housing subsidies are having an
impact on the child welfare outcomes. Subsidies reduced moves among
schools, school instability, and both subsidies and rapid rehousing
reduced school absences by about the same amount. Self-sufficiency, fewer than a
third of the usual care families worked for pay in the
week before the survey. So we have a lot of disability that
hampers work, but we also have a lot of people — we’re coming out
of the recession, but we aren’t fully out of the recession at the
follow-up, which was 20 months after families were enrolled. Subsidies reduced work effort by
about one-fifth, so that’s the one adverse effect of the
subsidy intervention. Both subsidies and rapid
rehousing increased food security. So even though families were
working a little bit less, their food security was a good deal better. And rapid rehousing also increased
household income a little bit, but still way below the level that
families could afford housing on the private market. So what are the lessons here? Overall, the subsidies not only
reduced homelessness, but they had these radiating impacts on every
other domain that we studied. And the subsidies alone without
additional services reduced some of the problems that can lead to homelessness
and child welfare involvement. They reduced child separations,
they improved school outcomes, they reduced some of the adult problems that
can lead to child welfare involvement. So there’s a lot of support
here for the theory that housing subsidies — that homelessness
among families really is a housing affordability problem that
subsidies can resolve and that you decrease the burden on the child
welfare system and the burden of child welfare. Transitional housing and rapid
rehousing had little effect on these outcomes. Rapid rehousing was less costly,
so it’s certainly better than what we’re doing with usual care because
you get the same kinds of outcomes at lower cost, but strong support
for this theory that resolving homelessness resolves other issues
and that homelessness really is about housing affordability. Sarah Hunter: Great. So I’m
going to pass it over to Mike, but thinking about the issues
that homeless families face, thinking about what it is that
they need to get back on their feet, and learning from the Family
Options Study that clearly a housing subsidy is kind of a
game-changer, not only in their housing stability, but in a
whole host of other outcomes. And thinking about what the
implications are for the families that you serve, we’ll talk
a little bit more about that. I am going to turn to Mike, who’s
going to talk to us a little bit about the specific voucher program
that Mary highlighted a few minutes ago, too, the Family Unification
Program, and talk about some of the impacts of that program, that
voucher program, on some child welfare outcomes. Michael Pergamit: Thank you, Sarah. So the Family Unification Program,
or the unfortunate acronym FUP, is a HUD-based program that
awards vouchers to public housing authorities, these same Housing
Choice Vouchers that Beth was talking about, the permanent
subsidy, but they are set aside for families in the child welfare system. And there are two types of eligible
families that are spelled out, families for whom the lack of
adequate housing is a primary factor in the imminent placement
of the family’s child or children in out-of-home care — and we refer
to those as preservation families. We’re trying to keep from having
to remove children into foster care. And secondly, it could be for
families where, due to inadequate housing, there’s a delay in
discharging the child from foster care back into the home. There’s something wrong with
that slide, but we refer to those as reunification families. And the Housing Authority receives
the vouchers from HUD, and they’re required to partner with their
local child welfare agency. And they receive the funding
for subsidizing the voucher, but there is no
additional service money. So this is really just like a
Housing Choice Voucher that Beth described, but, as I said,
set aside specifically for child welfare families. So we conducted an
evaluation of the FUP program. We actually looked at a different
FUP programs around the country to see how they’re implemented, and
a couple of years ago we came out with a brief that I won’t talk
about here, but if you go to the urban.org website, we describe the
eight different programs, and we talk about some of the
promising practices we saw there. But I’m going to talk today
more about what kind of outcomes we see from it, and for that, we
looked at two particular cities, Portland, Oregon, and
San Diego, California. And the San Diego program is what I
would say is a typical FUP program. So if you looked at FUP programs
across the country, most of them are going to look like this. That is, the child welfare
agency goes through some kind of a referral process. Usually they give these definitions
out to their caseworkers, who refer families on their caseload who they
think meet one of these conditions. That referral goes over to
the Public Housing Authority. Public Housing Authority fits this
in in some way with their regular Housing Choice Voucher program
and does their usual screening, are you eligible for a voucher? And they do an income check
and a criminal background check and things like that. And then, if you pass, they
will issue you a voucher. And as always, you take the
voucher, and you search for a place that a landlord that will take the
voucher and try to get leased up. There’s some basic support for
that that all families or anyone who applies and gets a Housing Choice
Voucher can get, but it’s very limited support in terms of filling
out the application, searching for housing, or the support you
need to actually get leased up. And then, on the post-lease-up
side, there’s a requirement for the child welfare agency to keep
serving families, but that’s limited. First off, there are no
new resources for that. So it’s basically child welfare
agencies fit that in with their current practices. So whatever their current situation
is, if a court orders that case closed or something, they fit
it in with their usual case, say, post-reunification case management
or whatever is appropriate. That’s what San Diego looks
like, and that’s not a bad thing. As I said, that’s very typical,
whereas there are some places out there that are going above and beyond. And Portland, Oregon, is one of them. And so what they did that looks
different is, first, the child welfare agency really developed
a system to do a much deeper look into what families they were
referring and sort of a more deep referral process and a review
process of those families to think, are we really referring the
families that we think are the best to use a FUP voucher? Secondly, over on the Housing
Authority side, housing authorities have certain discretion over the
HUD rules as to what they allow. In the regular Housing Choice
Voucher program, you come in and you fail a criminal background
check, they just move on, pretty much, to the next applicant on their
wait list because, as many of you know, wait lists for Section 8 type
vouchers in many cities are quite long. But these being set aside
specifically for child welfare families, the housing authorities have to
take from that particular referral list. So what we see in Portland — and there
are some other places that do this — is much more of an effort to
what we call screen in instead of screen out. Instead of rejecting a family for
not meeting certain conditions, they try to — they
don’t break any rules. They just try to use the discretion
they have as well as work with the family and the child welfare agency
to do better at being able to pass those housing screens and get a voucher. And we really see in Portland, for
instance, that almost every single family that got referred
actually got their voucher. Part of that is also due to some of
the upfront work the child welfare agency does to be prepared
to mitigate some of those circumstances that can prevent
a family from getting a voucher. They have a real working
relationship between the two organizations. And then a real important facet of
Portland, and where we really see FUP doing better in other places
such as, say, Connecticut — I know I saw them here — is in this case
the county came in, Multnomah County, Oregon, and funded three CBOs to
provide various types of assistance, starting with the application. One thing we see when we look
at San Diego, where there’s no assistance, a lot of people never
make it through the application because it’s a tedious process. It requires gathering
documents. There’s a lot to it. So in Portland, everybody gets
their application done because somebody helped them
get through that process. And they also help them with
searching for housing, which is a tough thing to do when you don’t
have transportation and you don’t know how to go about it, leasing
up, where you have landlords who maybe you passed the Housing
Authority screen, but that doesn’t mean the landlord is
keen on renting to you. So they help out with
getting that lease-up through. And then they are also there to
provide post-lease-up support. And some of these families have
now been working with these CBOs for several years to help them
with the various sorts of issues they have to deal with. So what did we find? The questions we set out to
evaluate were basically, if we are giving these vouchers to families
where they’re at imminent risk of removal, did it prevent the removal? Secondly, for those where there’s a
delay in discharge, did it actually help reunify the child or
children with the family? Were they able to close the cases
sooner, which is advantageous to both the child welfare agency
and the family, generally? And finally, did it reduce
reentry to the system? Or actually, specifically, we
looked at whether it reduced re-reports of maltreatment. So we separate the preservation
reunification because there’s a real difference in the phenomenon
of how these vouchers interact with the families. But kind of going through the
findings, the description of the sites is really important for
understanding why we see some of the things we do or don’t see
between San Diego and Portland. But there are some other
things about them, too. So in terms of preserving and
preventing removal, we do not find any real differences. And the main reason — and this is
true of both these sites – I should say we compared families who got
FUP vouchers to families that were referred and deemed eligible for
FUP, but because there were no more FUP vouchers, were on a wait list. So when we compare those two
groups, what we find is that waitlist group tells us what would
happen in the absence of FUP vouchers. And very small percentages of children
get removed from these families. The families that are being
selected in both of these cities have that this imminent risk
of removal is clearly not that imminent, because very
low rates of removal. So it’s hard to have an impact on
something that’s barely happening in the first place. And that’s an important
lesson to think about. Are these families the families we want? And maybe they are, because seeing
some of the other situations, preventing removal
isn’t the only objective. Can you close cases faster? In Portland, absolutely,
they close their cases faster. In San Diego, again, actually
not, but for similar reasons. That is, most of the cases in
the wait list group — this is all 18 months past the time of getting
referred, and most of the wait list cases in San Diego were
also getting closed. So this could be differences in
child welfare practices, and if it is, I think you have to think
about how the use of FUP vouchers intersects with child welfare practices. It could also be which families
were getting referred, and maybe they were referring families in San
Diego that were closer to getting their case closed. That’s hard for us to say. But in both cases, even though the
likelihood of closing a case was only higher in Portland, the
speed at which cases got closed was faster in both sites. So actually, it did lead
to faster case closing. And finally, re-reports,
looking, again, 18 years later. And in both cities, we see
a reduction, that is, fewer re-reports among the families that got
FUP vouchers than the ones who did not. So that’s a very positive sign,
and that’s the sense in which I was saying it may be not just were
we are trying to prevent removal, but also, if it reduces future
maltreatment of children, then it’s got a really important impact
even if it didn’t actually prevent removal at that point. Moving on to reunification families,
somewhat of a similar story, not quite as strong in San Diego. So in San Diego, I’m just going to
say, basically, same basic story is that San Diego is picking families
where most of these children in the wait list group were getting reunified. So apparently, this housing wasn’t
the necessary thing in order to get the child reunified. And that’s true with the case
closing, whereas, in Portland, we really see that in the wait list
group there was a much lower rate — they really were picking families
that were much less likely to get reunified in the absence of FUP. So by getting the FUP voucher, it
did actually help reunify children, and it helped reunify them faster. It got their cases more
likely to get closed. And then finally – now, here’s
the one tricky thing, re-reports. In San Diego it did actually
did reduce re-reports, so very consistent with what we
saw for preservation families. In Portland we got this very
disturbing and strange finding that it looked like it increased re-reports. But in digging into this,
what we realized in a sense is, in Portland, they’re much more likely
to reunify children in the FUP group. You’re not going to get a re-report
if you don’t have your child. So this is really more a
statistical artifact that because they are more likely to have
their children now — and in fact, the people in Portland were very nice
and went back through all the case files for us in all these
situations and found that almost all of these re-reports occurred
during trial home visits. And of course, the ones who never
reunified never ever had a trial home visit. So we don’t know — I can’t
say that it reduced re-reports. That’s for sure. But I think the fact that it looks
like it increased it is really not a real finding in the sense of it
wasn’t that FUP caused an increase in maltreatment. So that, I think,
summarizes our findings. Sarah Hunter: Thanks, Mike. And I just have one slide that I’m
going to show you, and this is the slide that says you’ve kind of
taken all of this information in that we’ve presented for you,
and you’re saying, well, Mary is telling me that we’re in a whole
heck of a lot of trouble here because we don’t have enough housing. Beth is telling us a little bit about
what works for homeless families. Mike is telling us a little bit about
the effectiveness of the FUP vouchers. So what I’m going to do is kind of
put that all together and say, hey, HUD is listening to what the
researchers are saying and, in fact, the President’s budget
in this past year put out a request for $11 billion over 10 years in
mandatory spending to get housing interventions into the hands
of the families who need them. And that is specifically
targeted to families experiencing homelessness, but we know that
those families overlap with families that we see in child
welfare, as we’ve talked about earlier. This budget request is rather historic. It’s been a long time since HUD
has requested vouchers and homeless assistance funds for families in
this kind of way at this level. And so I’m really just putting it
out there because I want you all to know that there is this request
that has been made of the congress from the President that says we
think we know what we can do here to make impacts. We’re asking for the money to do it. And if you give us the money to
do it, we think we can turn this around and really improve the lives
of a very significant number of families out there. So just for you all to know that,
as the administration, we are seeing the results of these studies
and saying, let’s get money into the hands of families to actually
improve some of these outcomes. So I know you guys will all go back
home and think about what you can do with information like this —
and those online, too, thinking about what you can do with
information like this, to know that there is such a request out there. Even though it’s probably not in
directly the field in which you work, it is something that will
tremendously benefit families that you see who are having issues
obtaining stable housing. So this proposal exists, and we
can link you up to more information about that outside the session, too. Marybeth Shinn: Sarah works
for HUD, so she can’t tell you to lobby. I can. Sarah Hunter: I cannot tell
you to lobby, but there’s great information in here. [Chuckling] So I’m just going to transition
us quickly to a question. This is kind of really
like the so-what question. You all are sitting out
here in the audience. We’re talking about housing. It’s probably not the primary thing
that you’re focusing on in your day-to-day work, but you know
that it impacts the lives of the families you serve. So this is the so-what. Why should you all, who are working
in child welfare, care about the housing situations of families
who are involved in the system? And we’ve talked about this
some already, but I don’t know if anybody wants to add to the
answers to these questions. Mary Cunningham: I would like that. They’ve been talking a lot. Sarah Hunter: It’s been a while. Mary Cunningham: Exactly.
I think what the evidence, which I think is still emerging,
so we have some evidence on the homeless side that
shows that housing matters for stability but also that vouchers
actually buy a lot more than the housing, that it can help keep
families together and reduce other negative outcomes or
increase positive outcomes. And then, on the FUP side, I think
what this evidence shows, which is really promising — I think we need
a lot more evidence, but it shows that housing actually can be an
intervention that can get child welfare outcomes, which I don’t
think the child welfare agencies often think about. When I talk to caseworkers or child
welfare directors, I think we all know that housing is important,
but often it’s thought of as another resource to get families. So food stamps, WIC, access
to housing, and that will help families get stabilized in housing. But I think what the evidence is
showing is that it actually could help child welfare agencies obtain
your outcomes that you’re after. So it could actually help you move
a step further in helping families stay together, preserving
families, helping families reunify. Making sure that families
don’t come back into the system. That’s what some of
the evidence is showing. So I’m a researcher. I do a lot of qualitative work, talking
to families, doing in-depth interviews. And as part of the Supportive
Housing Demonstration, I talked to one family, and I just want to —
I think her story really illustrates kind of how housing
matters for families. She was a young mom. Her name is Sabrina
— not her real name. But I sat in her living room not
too long ago and really talked to her about her situation. So she had two kids, two years old,
three years old, and she had just gotten them back after many months,
17, 18 months in foster care. And she was a really young
mom, somewhere around 20. And she told me that at the time
her kids were removed out of the home, that she was
having a lot of trouble. She didn’t really know how to parent. She was homeless, in and out of
housing situations, sleeping in other people’s houses, doubled
up, no stable housing situation to speak of for a very long time. She had actually been in foster
care herself, so she didn’t have a strong parenting figure, either. And she desperately wanted to
maintain her family and wanted to keep her family together. When she came into the child
welfare system, as a part of this demonstration, she was
referred to supportive housing. So she got access to an apartment,
got help paying for her rent, and she also got some evidence-based
interventions around parenting services that helped her think
about how to approach parenting in a better way. And she, at the time I talked
to her, was doing much better. She had a job in construction. She had her kids back, and she was
really thinking about things that I, as a mom, think about. She was thinking about where her
kids were going to go to school. She was living in a better school district
as a result of the housing intervention. She was telling me that her
kids had really high vocabularies and that she reads to them every night. And she really cared about these
things that we all care about and we all need time and
space to care about. But when you are really poor and
struggling, you don’t have that time. And she said that the housing
subsidy and the support that she was getting from her caseworker
really helped her have stability. So she was still struggling, though. She was still poor. But
she wasn’t falling apart. And that stability was enough
to help her help her kids. And so I think, when you think
about two generations, maybe she may, the mom — she was talking
about her career, once her kids got in school, and was ambitious. She’s going to continue to struggle. I left that house thinking, I’m
not going to be depressed by this, because I could still see that she
was exhausted, that she came home every night and had to make a real
big effort to try to find time to play with her kids, that her living
room was — there was not a lot of furniture, but she had two pictures
of her kids, recent pictures hanging on the living room wall. So she was still struggling, but
that support of the housing and the services really gave her the
stability to be able to keep her family together and to be able
to provide that stability and continuity for her kids. Marybeth Shinn: Let me give you
another reason, and we just happen to have a slide here. These are data from one of the
sites of the Family Options Study from Alameda County, which is
across San Francisco Bay from San Francisco, to the east. And what you have here is child
welfare reports before and after families entered shelters. So this is a group of 198 families. The arrow at the bottom, that big
black arrow, shows the point at which they entered shelter, and
then we’ve got kind of 90 days in each of those bars on each
side of entering shelter. So you see that, before families
entered shelter, we had some child welfare reports. But they really spiked at the point
that the families entered shelter. So in the three months after
families came into shelter, 24 of those 198 families, one in
eight, were reported to child welfare. That very light-colored bar at
the top, those were evaluated out. They weren’t even investigated. The darker pink bar below that,
those are the ones that were investigated and found unsubstantiated. The bright red, two
families were inconclusive. One family out of those
24 was substantiated. All 24 families had reports. There were many more reports than 24. That’s the worst outcome any family
had during that 90-day period. So families coming into shelter
makes them visible, puts them at risk of child welfare reports. A lot of those reports are not founded. The child welfare people
evaluated them out. And it’s especially black
families that were reported. They weren’t more likely to be
substantiated over the next years, but they were more
likely to be reported. So that’s another reason that child
welfare folks should really care about housing, because families who
become homeless are really at risk of involvement in your system, and
they’re at risk of involvement not only for the child abuse and
neglect that you’re really concerned about, but also for all
of these extraneous reports that really don’t seem to indicate real
abuse and neglect but just somebody is worried about kids
because they’re homeless. Sarah Hunter: So in the interest
of time, we’ll keep plugging along here and go to the second
question, which is, really like — okay, so I have all this information. I’m not a housing person. What do you expect me to do to help
impact stability for the families I see and for the families that we
come in touch with in child welfare? Who wants to start with this one? Mary Cunningham: Sure, I can start. I think the first — the real
important step that child welfare agencies can take is really
understanding how many families have housing needs. So there’s a little bit of
information collected across the country but not enough
by child welfare agencies. I know two of the sites in our demo
actually are implementing tools, so this is the Supportive Housing Demo. In Connecticut they are testing, or
really have rolled out, a tool that assesses families’ housing
needs at the investigation stage. And so really understanding how
many families involved in the child welfare system actually need
housing is really important and also can help you as a child
welfare agency think about how to line up resources in your community
and access those resources. So if you know that 10 percent of
your families have severe housing needs, you can go and partner with
the PHA or the homeless provider and say, these are the same
families that we’re serving. Help me. Let’s leverage our resources
and put them together. And that is the second thing
I would say, which is look out into your community. I know child welfare agencies are
not housing agencies and shouldn’t become housing agencies, but you
should be looking out into your community and figuring out who has
the housing resources, even though they are scarce, PHAs, city housing
agencies, local continuums of care, homeless service providers, and
developing partnerships with those agencies so that, if you are
serving all the same families, a lot of them, that you are actually
putting your resources together to really give the family a more
holistic service intervention. Marybeth Shinn: For folks who
aren’t in the housing world, to say what some of that jargon is, if I
may, PHA is a Public Housing Authority. They are the folks who can
issue Section 8 vouchers. They also have public housing. They have some other resources, as well. And the continuum of care is
something that is mandated in each community to coordinate
homelessness services. And so your community will have
a continuum of care where all the people who get engaged with
homelessness come together and make a coordinated application for
funds to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. So the Public Housing Authorities,
the continuum of care, and the particular agencies that are part
of that continuum in your community are your potential resources. You are not housers, but you can
cooperate with the people who are. Sarah Hunter: Do you want
to touch this one, Mike? Michael Pergamit: Well, I think
one thing Mary didn’t mention was, as part of supportive housing, one
of the principles is housing first, this idea that normally the way
housing typically works is they think about housing ready. So you have a case plan, and when
you go through your substance abuse treatment or whatever, when you’re
ready, we’ll give you housing. And the housing first principle,
which has been shown to be very effective, is first we get them
housing, and that stabilizes people so that they can take
advantage of those services. And people are actually more likely
to engage in services when they are given the housing first. And I think that’s really just
an important principle that child welfare agencies need to address,
and that’s, as part of this partnering, where that
really come into play. How do you give housing first if
you don’t even have the housing? So obviously, you need the partnering
that both Mary and Beth talked about. And then I think, though, even
if agencies start getting that message, getting caseworkers
to understand that. We’ve done focus groups with
caseworkers, and you’ll hear them say, we’re not housers, but why do
we give them housing and then we still take care of their kids for them? It’s going to be a major cultural
change, but we have seen it happening in the Supportive
Housing Demonstration that Mary has mentioned that getting caseworkers
to understand this principle and how it can actually help their families. So I think that’s another thing
the agencies need to do, is work on that internal culture
with their caseworkers. Sarah Hunter: The one thing that
I would add, too, from kind of the HUD standpoint, is that we’re kind
of sitting up here in front of a child welfare audience and talking
about the things that child welfare can do, but we’re also
reflecting this back at HUD. So one of the strategic plan core
principles at HUD is to use housing as a platform to
improve quality of life. And that means for us that we are
translating to our PHAs, to our continuums of care that we
fund that we ought to be paying attention to all the other outcomes
that families are working to achieve, as well, and that we’re
also asking our continuums of care and our public housing agencies
to get better at collaborating with you and get better at working with
folks who have that deep knowledge of what the interventions are that
help really unify families and help bring our young people to a
better place in this country, too. So we are as doggedly asking our
folks on the housing side to kind of answer these questions and ask
these questions in communities and, where possible, to come to you and
ask for your insight and help, as well, in how we address not only
issues from the way we see it, as issues of homelessness and housing
instability, but to help you address the outcomes that you’re
working to achieve with the families you see, too. So with that, I think we’re
going to open it up for questions. We have, I think, about a half-hour
left, so a good chunk of time. And I know that — I see from
Dori that there are a handful of questions that have come
in from online already. So if there are folks in the room
who want to use a mic, feel free to walk up to the mike and ask a question. And Dori, if you want to pass
questions or as them yourself, I don’t know how you want to do it. Mary Cunningham: Can I just ask,
can you come to the first mic, because there’s this big, bright light? Then we’ll be able to see you. Sarah Hunter: Tell us who you
are and where you’re from, too. Speaker: My name is Megan, and
I work for DC’s Child and Family Services Agency. My question is for Mike. I’m
curious about the re-reports. It sounds like you guys haven’t
done a whole lot of research on that yet in Portland. I’m wondering if those have
resulted in re-entries and if those were substantiated re-reports and
what you’ve done as far as research on how long those cases were
open, what kind of research you’ve actually done into that, and what
kind of research you plan to do on those re-reports. Was there any sort of length of
stay that those kids were in care, any kind of other supports that
were provided to those families? Have you looked at any
of those kinds of things? Michael Pergamit: I can
only answer part of that. Basically, we did not have a chance
to look into whether the re-reports led into re-entry in the system,
but those were substantiated reports. So I assume that mostly they did. And in Portland, as I said, if they
were getting FUP, they were getting extra support, and that might have
prevented reopening a case because of knowing that they were getting
this extra help, and we haven’t looked into that, either. Right now, we don’t have any
current plans for research, but we are open to suggestions
and funding. [Chuckling] Speaker: All right. Thank you. Speaker: Good morning. As you know, I’m Anne Farrell at
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, and I’m one of
the evaluators of one of the demonstration projects in Connecticut. This is a really good panel. Thank you. Very efficiently, but still
nuanced, presentation of these really compelling issues. I’d like to highlight something
that I think is probably an extension of the last question and
something we’ve all been talking about inside the demonstrations. I think this morning you are
preaching to the proverbial choir, and at the same time, as we
talk about the costs of these interventions and the potential
benefits of these interventions, what could get lost in the
larger discourse about housing and families in the child welfare
system is, in fact, the cost. And I think the benefits — there
are human benefits here that we are very well aware of in terms of
promoting wellness and well-being. And at the same time, the findings
here and elsewhere about re-reports and re-substantiations
seem to be, at best, mixed. And we’ve had some conversations
about whether that may be due, in fact, to the enhanced surveillance
that these families experience inside these programs, so there
are a lot of eyes on these families. And at the same time, I think we’re
not 100 percent sure of that, right? So could you all think about that
a little bit and talk with us about your thinking on it? And really, how do we message
the findings in a field that’s so complex, that involves so many
systems, and at a time when resources are so slim, that we
really have to speak responsibly about this and, at the same time, I
think, make this compelling case to continue investing in this? Because we have so many unanswered
questions, and families really do need these supports. Marybeth Shinn: So let me speak
for the Family Options Study, which was not a child welfare study. It was a homelessness study. And what we found, surprisingly,
over the first 20 months of the study is that offering families
housing vouchers was no more expensive than usual care. The families who got housing
vouchers used them at very high rates — or that were
offered them, used them. And the families in usual care used
a lot more emergency shelter and transitional housing, which are
very expensive interventions. So over the first 20
months, it was really a wash. Rapid rehousing was
about 10 percent cheaper. Transitional housing with heavy-duty
services was a little bit more. But the difference was not large. We don’t expect it to continue
to be a wash, because the housing subsidies are permanent, and
we’ll be, in October, releasing a 37-month report. But at least in the short term, the
housing subsidies did not cost more. So all of these benefits were
really at no additional cost, just looking at housing
and service system. Mary Cunningham: I would just add
to that, I think we need a lot more evidence on the costs of
both these interventions. So we are looking at, as part of
the evaluation team, looking at the costs of supportive housing and
really trying to understand if the benefits outweigh the costs. And our hypothesis is that if you
can help reunify families faster, and you can close cases, and you
can prevent re-reports, that you could actually have some potential
cost offsets or cost savings from the intervention. And that supportive housing, which
actually is a pretty intensive intervention, services plus
deep subsidy, housing voucher or something similar — so I think that
there is possibly some cost offsets there. We don’t know yet. We will hopefully know sometime
soon, over the next couple of years. In a researcher lens, that’s soon. But I will say that vouchers,
Housing Choice Vouchers, FUP vouchers, cost $10,000 on
average to administer a year. That is not that much money
compared to how much child welfare agencies spend. If we could have more vouchers to
stabilize families, I think there are really big cost
offsets that you could have. And we just need to have
more evidence around that. I will add one more thing to your
kind of mixed, the re-reports. I think the evidence is still emerging. It is not overwhelmingly conclusive. And I think Mike will be proud of
me when I say science is a process, and it’s really peeling back the onion. You have to keep on
looking at the question. And we need more research on this issue. We need more demonstrations, more
innovation, and we need strong evaluation with it. And that’s how you make the case. I am not always confident
that our political system works on an evidence base. In fact, I think that it
works directly opposite. But I will say that
it’s really reassuring. Sarah showed earlier that the
President requested $11 billion for housing vouchers and rapid
rehousing, and that is an evidence-based budget proposal,
and it really is related to the evidence that has come
out of Family Options. So I think that’s really reassuring. So I just think — I know it sounds
like a classic researcher, but we need more evidence, and
we need more studies. Sarah Hunter: One of the things
that I take away from just listening to each of you talk about
this, I think, is the way we think about it in the homelessness field
— that’s kind of where I come – is you think about how you get the
most expensive intervention to the one who needs the most
expensive intervention. And there are interventions that
are less costly that maybe some of the families that are experiencing
homelessness can use and benefit from and be just as successful. I think we learn a little bit about
that out of the Family Options Study. But I think that kind of cross
there between how could we actually tell that story for families in
child welfare, does every family in child welfare need the deep, deep
intervention with a very large service package and the kind
of supportive housing model, or is there a way to do light touch? I’m not the one to answer this question. I’m just putting it out there as
perhaps the next kind of phase of the research, which is, could a
lighter touch set of services with something like a voucher actually
benefit a good number of families out there in the system? That’s not what the Supportive
Housing Demo was meant to test. It’s actually meant to
test the opposite, I think. But perhaps that is the next phase
of where we go in learning about how housing plays an impact for
families involved in child welfare. Michael Pergamit: I just want to
reinforce that Sarah’s absolutely right. There clearly would be a
heterogeneity, varied differences across different families
that need different things. So going back to one of Mary’s
first points, which is this idea of child welfare agencies collecting
information about the housing needs of families, and in enough depth
that they can figure out what the array of housing needs are so
you can start figuring out who to assign to these different
possible housing options. Mary Cunningham: San Francisco
has done a lot of work on that in the demo, has actually added some
categories to not just asking, do you have inadequate housing,
but really fleshing out those categories of the range of housing
needs and being able to use that information to actually target
families for supportive housing. And San Francisco, can you guys
raise your hands so if people want to come and talk to you
about that, they can? Speaker: Hi. I’m Amy Hance. I’m a program specialist with the
Children’s Bureau in the Region 7 office in Kansas City, and
Iowa is actually my state. And I’ll be in Cedar Rapids later
this month, so I don’t know a lot about the PUSH program, but I am
excited to — I know about it. I’m excited to learn more,
especially from watching the video. So I have some really basic questions. I did child welfare
work in my past life. I was familiar with the FUP
program, but more often than not, didn’t have a lot of success. Never seemed to have vouchers. It was always full or a waiting list. Do you guys know how many FUP
vouchers are actually available? Like if I were to say to you,
in Iowa, do you know how many FUP vouchers – I feel weird saying
that — Housing Choice Vouchers are available for the state of Iowa? Or I don’t really know
exactly how it works. I think — I know there might be
vouchers in Des Moines and maybe not anywhere else, or vouchers in
– it’s more a local-based kind of thing, but I don’t even
know how many are available. They don’t talk about it in our
annual report that we get from them, and I’ve pushed them. So I’m pushing, in terms of
both the youth and the family. So that’s one of my questions,
is how many are available? Also, do we know how
many we aren’t reaching? So we have this many vouchers. We have this many families who
really could use it, but we can’t get it to them because
they are not available. Do we have that data? And then my last piece is probably
more of a comment about the re-reports. I know we all would hope there
could be a silver bullet in child welfare, but we know there isn’t. So in thinking about re-reports and
outcomes like that, you can’t just think about, did solving the housing
issue — what did it lead to in terms of outcomes? I mean, everybody in here knows
this, but there are so many other variables to consider. Was that family substance
abuse involved at the time? Was there domestic violence
issues, mental health issues? So it’s kind of hard to say this
led to this without considering all those other things. Plus, you don’t know — you
touched on this with your different approaches between Oregon and
San Diego, the differences in practices, how the
families were treated. So just wanted to say that. Mary Cunningham: Lots
of questions in there. Sarah Hunter: Indeed. So let
me take some of the kind of voucher questions first,
and then we’ll pass it along. So I don’t know the
number of FUP vouchers — Mary Cunningham: 20,000. Sarah Hunter: Around 20,000 FUP
vouchers across the country that exist, and we haven’t had a new batch
of FUP vouchers in, I think, four or five years now. Congress is very interested in FUP
and, in recent years, has been more focused on FUP for youth. So last year, and actually in FY
’17 budget, there is a set-aside for $20 million, actually, for
new FUP for youth specifically. And in a recent housing bill that
passed, we got some new authority for youth-specific FUP. But without new vouchers, it is
very much a zero-sum game there, balanced between family
vouchers and youth vouchers. So any of the improvements we are
making on the youth side, to using those vouchers for youth, we
know are making an impact on the vouchers that are going to families. So we can talk more about the youth
vouchers off line, and I’d be happy to do that with you. From kind of the big picture,
the Housing Choice Vouchers, it’s really the same kind
of principle is true. There haven’t been a significant
number of new vouchers appropriated from the congress in a long time,
and, in fact, the sequestration hit the voucher program pretty hard. And that has resulted in a lot
of communities as very much a tightening of the belt of who is
getting access to those vouchers and a lengthening of wait
lists in many communities. This is a very scarce resource that
we know — we have studies that say we need more. Families need help with affordable
housing, and the Housing Choice Voucher actually does have a
positive impact on families. So we are making the best case
possible to get more, but in communities, they are very strapped
at figuring out how to actually get the vouchers that they have
out to folks who need them. So that’s why you see that
kind of tension play out. And the tension exists between
child welfare and Public Housing and all the other kind of
community-based organizations that are working with really strapped,
poverty-stricken families who we really want to get a housing
subsidy in their hands and we just frankly don’t have enough. And the problem, like Mary was
saying earlier, is getting worse and worse, without any end in
sight, except for proposals to put new vouchers on the table. Mary Cunningham: I would just add
to that to say — because you were talking about asking a vouchers
in your community and your state. And so the best way to find out
is to go to your Public Housing Authority, go to your housing
agency, and shimmy up to them. And ask them if they have any FUP
vouchers, and get to know them, and try to convince them that a
partnership is beneficial, because PHAs need help, too. Public Housing Agencies need help. So as much as connecting them with
families, providing some services and support, creating partnerships,
the squeakiest wheel gets the oil. So trying to figure out who in the
community has those resources, even though they are scarce, and coming
together and really looking at, if you’re serving the same families,
how can you do it better together? There was one last question, I think. It was like about re-reports
and disentangling. Okay. Speaker: [Off Mic] Speaker: Thanks to the panel. This was a great discussion, and
so we have a ton of questions from online, from the virtual audience. So I have to kind of pick one. But here is one specifically about
the unique needs of young parents. And the question is, “Any
suggestions about how we can get our community to address and
create specific services for them? Any suggestions for effective
services for young parents who are facing housing instability?” Mary Cunningham: So I would say
— I know Beth would say, first of all, that young parents
– let me channel you for a minute. But I have heard you say in other
panels, young parents are at high risk for homelessness, especially
ones with infants, right? And so one of the things that, in
the Supportive Housing Demo, there are many evidence-based
interventions that the sites are implementing that look at parenting
in particular, parents as teachers, and just provide parent coaching. And actually, that one young woman
that I talked to, I kind of went into her living room, Sabrina’s
living room, thinking she’s doing better because of the
housing, and that’s stability. And I think that’s true. But I also heard a lot about how
the services around parenting were helping her think about a routine
for her kids and consistency and reading to her children and
thinking about how to respond to temper tantrums, and so all
of those kind of evidence-based interventions around parenting
I think can be really helpful, especially for families like
Sabrina that are young moms and who didn’t grow up with strong
parenting figures and don’t know really where to start. And we have a list on the Urban website. There is a description of the
Supportive Housing Demo, of the five sites — which, by the way,
are Cedar Rapids, San Francisco, Memphis, Connecticut,
and Broward County. And we have a description of the
intervention, also, as well as the services. And also, everyone is in the
room here, so you can find them. Sarah Hunter: Anyone else? Speaker: Hi, everyone. My name is Grace, and I currently work for COA,
which is an accrediting body, but I have a lot of history working
with youth, and I still do on the side. So I noticed that we have a lot
of youth that are cyclically going through poverty and going through
the child welfare system, and now they’re becoming parents themselves. So in New York City, we have this
public shelter system, and then they filter out the young people
to these nonprofit shelter systems that they are not being, I don’t
think, fully counted within this public sector of being young people
that are poor, that have children, that are going through the child
welfare system often have open cases. But they’re sitting in these
transitional living programs, and our response is rapid rehousing. Let’s get them a housing voucher.
Let’s get them into an apartment. So I’m curious to know, is this
— should we focus more — not necessarily focus more, but put
some thought into like transitional living, independent living, where
we’re actually teaching them a skill and how to be independent? And we have often these situations
where these people are coming back into contact with child welfare or
various systems because they’re not getting a skill set before we
give them that right to housing. And housing is a right, but does
it necessarily have to be a voucher that puts them in their own
place where they don’t necessarily have the supports? Sarah Hunter: I’m happy to
take a little bit of this one. This is kind of right up my alley a
bit, and kind of highlight a recent opportunity that just came out of HUD. So I think one of the things that
we’ve been talking about over and over at HUD and with our partners
at HHS is how to think about homelessness for young people who
are really making that transition to independence in a very specific
way, and what are the housing options that those young people
face, either with or without kids, whether they are pregnant and
parenting or whether they are what we call unaccompanied in the
homelessness world, without their parents? So two things I would highlight
that we’ve been kind of thinking about in this realm. One is that we’re trying to build
up an array of options for young people so that it’s not simply
a question between transitional housing or rapid rehousing, but
instead, that we’re thinking about — or a voucher, that it’s not just
this kind of this or this question, but is there an array of options,
or is there a family intervention that would be appropriate? Could we somehow help support
the family with some financial assistance, actually help a young
person back to either the family of origin or some other kind of person
in their lives who would be that permanent connection? Or is a transitional living
arrangement more appropriate? Or is a voucher more appropriate? And in any of those circumstances,
how do we ensure that a young person is getting access to the
kind of living skills that they might need to help understand
what that transition looks like? It goes back to, I think, what Mary
was pointing out earlier with kind of the young parenting question. Just last week, HUD released a
funding opportunity for communities to compete for $33 million in 10
sites, four of which have to be rural, to basically build their
network of both folks who are collaborating around this work for
youth — so we know that youth are impacted by a lot of different
systems, from schools to child welfare to juvenile justice, that
there are a lot of folks looking out for young people. How do we make sure that we bring
that community together and then offer some specific resources
to build up a set of housing interventions across that
community in some new ways? What this opportunity provides,
actually, is for communities to dig in and do some kind of innovative
housing and family intervention work with families, using
that HUD funding stream. So there’s a handful of preselected
waiver opportunities to use some of those traditional continuum of care
housing funds in kind of new ways that would actually work better
for young people to help understand, what are those different things that
we would need to build out that array? That competition closes in November. Two things that I would highlight
is that the child welfare system is a mandatory partner in that opportunity. So folks in this room who are
hearing about this for the first time — folks in the room who are
hearing about this for the first time can come talk to
me about that later. The second thing is that we want
youth voice in it, as well, and that a mandatory partner is a youth
advisory board to this opportunity. So we want to know that young
people’s voices are a big part of the opportunity that
folks are applying for. Great. So I think that’s
going to be our last question. So do you guys want to close with
some comments and take it away, or anything else you want to add? We’ve said a lot this afternoon,
or evening, or morning. Mary Cunningham: I would just
encourage the child welfare agencies in the audience to think
about — just to stop and reflect on maybe how housing matters, how
housing might be able to help you achieve your outcomes, and to
get in touch if you have questions about some of the research and some
of the funding proposals that are coming down the pipeline. Michael Pergamit: I would just
add to essentially say that again. But basically, as an evaluator,
a lot of the work I do in child welfare, we’re always looking at a
variety of different interventions. They come from different angles
in terms of how to help youth, how to help families, whatever. And to start thinking of housing as
an intervention would actually be a big change within the field. Sarah Hunter: So I think,
Raphael, do you want to join us for a moment and add a few
things to this conversation? Commissioner Raphael
Lopez: Thank you, Sarah. And thank you all for all of your
work towards bridging the worlds of child welfare and housing. As we all know, the work sometimes
seems so basic to get us in the room together, but it’s not
always the way we behave. So what you’ve seen today is the
beginning of a new era of child welfare and housing workers talking
about the work differently and investing in the work
in a different way. And I want to lift up a couple of
things that our panelists spoke of today that ties to the
continued commitment of the Obama administration around taking bold
action around trying to address and ultimately end youth and
family homelessness by 2020. In this last year of the
administration, Secretary Burwell, the secretary from the Health
and Human Services Department, in partnership with a variety of
cabinet secretaries — Secretary Castro, Secretary King from
education, et cetera — are all working to try to pivot in the last
year of the administration to lay in the groundwork to ending
youth and family homelessness. We heard from Sarah about the
leadership of HUD in doing this work, and Health and Human Services
has also done a tremendous amount in partnership with Housing and
Urban Development department and education to reimagine what it
would take to ultimately end youth and family homelessness in our country. And I want to lift up a couple
of ideas that have been touched on briefly but sort of are an example
again of trying to test out new ideas much more boldly and with urgency. We announced recently a fantastic
partnership with HUD and a variety of philanthropic foundations,
including KC Family Programs, the Melville Charitable Trust, and the
Raikes Foundation, including Away Home America and Rapid Results
Institute, to launch a 100-day challenge in three
cities across the country. So the city of Austin, the city
of Cleveland, and the city of Los Angeles are boldly going to try to,
in 100 days, imagine what it would be like if they had no barriers to
ending youth homelessness in those cities. Why that matters is that, for
humans, we love competition. And sometimes it’s simply creating
the act of urgency to remove the imagined and sometimes
intentionally constructed barriers to share information and to solve
problems across our agencies, across our institutions,
and amongst our cities. And we hope that just like the
Rapid Results Institute work that happened around vets’ homelessness,
that the cities that are going to take this up, launching on the
ground in September, just in a few weeks, will give us all inspiration
and hope around how we can, in fact, build bridges between
child welfare and housing. And let us ground ourselves before
we give one last announcement of what’s going to happen next in this
issue related to the data that was surfaced in the first-ever report
by the Family Youth Services Bureau of the Health and Human Services
Agency trying to look at what happens to our young people with
whom we come into contact in our street outreach program
across the country. We’ve worked with just under 1,000
young people in 11 cities across the country, and the data that was
lifted up from those interactions is devastating, however you cut it,
however you slice it, in all the cities. Bottom line, most young people who
we talked with who were living on the streets, not in shelter, spent
roughly two years living on the streets. More than 60 percent of those
young people were raped, beaten up, robbed, or assaulted. Of the young people with
whom we interacted, 30 percent self-identified as gay, lesbian,
and bisexual, and seven percent identified as transgender. And finally, about half of those
youth across those 11 cities with whom we came into contact had had
some history and been in foster care. And when you compared those young
people who had had a foster care history with their counterpart
youth who had not, they would be homeless and on the streets longer. No one is arguing here in this
panel, nor are we arguing, that that is conclusive evidence that
foster care leads to homelessness, but let us not be fooled, which
is that the foster care system and child welfare at large and its
relationship to homelessness and housing stability for youth, for
families, for children has to be thought of and reimagined
in a deeply different way. So taking up the very same message
we encouraged you to think about this morning, what might you do
when you leave this master session, virtually or live in person, to
connect with someone not in your field, working on these issues? How might you do something
differently to build the bridges or empower yourself to call to the
table these kinds of advocates and policymakers and folks who actually
can make an enormous difference? For those of you interested in
continuing this conversation, not just on the items lifted up today,
but in practical terms, there is going to be a lunch session that is
co-hosted by the Housing and Urban Development Department as well
as the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families in
the LaTrobe Room here. We invite you to join that
conversation so that we can hear from you specifically about
how child welfare might more effectively and much more
urgently address family and youth homelessness with deeper
partnerships, with our HUD counterparts and our housing
advocates and those that are running housing systems
across the country. We can learn from them, they can
learn from us, but it starts by actually doing it. So please join us for that lunch
conversation, informal, so we can ultimately meet our goal and
end youth and family homelessness in America by 2020. Thank you to our panelists
for all you’ve done. Thank you to all of you who have
joined us virtually or in person, and have a good afternoon
and a good lunch. [Applause]

Daniel Yohans

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