Brief Does Supportive Housing Help Child Welfare–Involved Families Move to Better Neighborhoods?
Mattie Mackenzie-Liu, Michael Pergamit
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This study examines whether providing supportive housing to participants in the Children’s Bureau-funded Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System helped families move to better neighborhoods. The demonstration used a randomized controlled trial to assign eligible child welfare–involved families experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness to two groups: those who receive supportive housing and those who receive services as usual. We examine the neighborhoods where participants resided 12 and 54 months after the demonstration and use three measures of quality.

Why This Matters

The neighborhood in which children are raised can impact their well-being and future outcomes. Prior research suggests that when children from low-income families move to better neighborhoods, future educational, health, and economic outcomes can improve. Housing assistance may allow families to move to higher-quality neighborhoods by reducing certain barriers families face when accessing these neighborhoods. However, families, particularly those who are involved in the child welfare system, are strongly incentivized to get housed quickly. Therefore, it is important to examine not only where these families reside in the short run, but the long run as well.

What We Found

We found that the neighborhoods in which families involved in the child welfare system tend to reside are disadvantaged. We did not find differences for these families in the short term, one year after the randomization. But, in the long term, we found evidence that suggests supportive housing allowed families to access neighborhoods characterized by features known to be beneficial to children’s development. Given that using housing vouchers and finding a different neighborhood both take time and additional resources, supportive services that help lower initial search costs could be beneficial.

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