Research Report Does Supportive Housing for Child Welfare–Involved Families Improve Parenting and Parent and Child Well-Being?
Long-term Outcomes for Families who Received Supporting Housing
Catherine Kuhns, Michael Pergamit, Fernando Hernandez-Lepe
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Housing is a key component of a child’s environment and a primary context for their development. A wealth of evidence suggests that factors associated with housing instability have enormous consequences for children’s growth and development. Housing instability can compromise both caregivers’ functioning and their ability to parent, while also directly impacting children’s physical safety and mental and behavioral health. Supportive housing is a promising, though underused opportunity to address the needs of families facing housing instability or homelessness. Yet existing research on whether supportive housing for child welfare–involved families improves parenting and child outcomes is limited and somewhat mixed.

This study examined indicators of parenting and parent and child well-being for participants in the Children’s Bureau–funded Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System, a five-year, $25 million demonstration that provided supportive housing to families in the child welfare system. The demonstration took place across five states, with differences in service delivery, context (e.g., big city, regional service area, rural area), child welfare practices, the definitions of the target population, housing, and subsidy type. In this study, we used survey data to examine parent and child well-being 54 months after randomization to assess the impact of supportive housing over time.

Overall, we found no evidence to suggest that supportive housing as it was offered across the sites had a lasting effect on parenting or parent and child well-being, at least as it was measured by indicators in the survey. The lack of significant findings is consistent with the idea that to be successful, supportive housing interventions must be targeted to specific outcomes, tailored to the level of need, and, in the case of children, be developmentally appropriate and responsive. This means leveraging family strengths and matching program components and service duration to parent and child needs. A combination of multidomain service coordination, including specialists familiar with and competent in supporting children in different developmental stages, is key, and should be emphasized in future research.

Research Areas Child welfare Children and youth Housing
Tags Child welfare Child maltreatment and prevention Parenting Federal housing programs and policies Public and assisted housing
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Quantitative data analysis
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