Research Report Family Unification Program-Family Self-Sufficiency (FUP-FSS) Demonstration Evaluation
Claudia D. Solari, Michael Pergamit, Mark Treskon, Mica O'Brien, Amy Rogin, Matthew Gerken, Annelise Loveless, Martena Reed, Amy Dworsky
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Youth aging out of foster care face a high risk for homelessness (Courtney et al. 2010). This report evaluates an effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address housing and economic challenges that youth aging out of foster care face when transitioning to adulthood: a demonstration that combines two existing programs for families adapted to serve youth: the Family Unification Program (FUP) and the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program.

FUP vouchers are special purpose housing choice vouchers (HCVs) meant to create housing stability, while FSS aims to increase economic independence. The FUP-FSS Demonstration was designed to test whether combining these two federal programs could improve outcomes for youth who age out of foster care and are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. Youth participating in FUP receive a voucher term extension if they also voluntarily participate in FSS.

The demonstration, which involves 51 PHAs, was first announced in 2016. As of 2020, 705 youth had participated in the FUP-FSS Demonstration.

This study, conducted by the Urban Institute and its partner, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, evaluates the FUP-FSS Demonstration’s implementation and short-term effectiveness in helping youth who aged out of foster care gain self-sufficiency. The researchers analyzed administrative data, surveyed public housing authority (PHA) and public child welfare (PCWA) staff, and interviewed program staff and youth participants.

A selection of key findings related to take-up, implementation, and short-term outcomes include:

  • Although overall demonstration participation was low PHAs that received new FUP voucher awards in recent years have higher rates of youth participating in FUP and FSS.
  • The number of youth interviewed was limited, but they reported valuing the FSS services and support they received. Many were drawn to the demonstration’s extended FUP voucher term and the escrow account, and they described their FSS program coordinator as playing an important and positive role in their lives, yet they also identified a range of challenges associated with stabilizing their housing and becoming self-sufficient.
  • Implementation approaches to the demonstration vary among sites, but adapting FUP and FSS to address the unique needs of youth appears to help agencies more successfully engage with youth participants in services and meet their goals. Adaptations include: having the FSS program coordinator actively recruit youth, using a trauma-informed approach, engaging with youth on their terms, advocating for youth to employers and landlords, and recognizing small accomplishments.

Findings based on administrative data for initial short-term outcomes indicate that FUP-FSS youth tend to stay in subsidized housing longer than FUP-only youth. While the average income trajectory over time of demonstration participants is similar to that of other FUP youth, the small numbers of FUP-FSS youth who have graduated to date from FSS and the demonstration mean it is too soon to draw conclusions about the relationship between demonstration participation and income.

This report also offers several policy and program recommendations. For example, we recommend additional allocations of vouchers targeted at these youth, offering housing lease-up assistance, and extending the voucher term and supportive services, especially mental health services. 

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Housing Social safety net Child welfare
Tags Housing affordability Economic well-being Employment Families with low incomes Family structure Foster care Homelessness Housing stability Housing subsidies Housing vouchers and mobility Poverty Residential mobility Vouchers Wages and economic mobility Youth employment and training Homelessness
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Data analysis Qualitative data analysis Quantitative data analysis