This study examines long-term child welfare outcomes 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 (2012–16), $25 million demonstration that provided supportive housing to families in the child welfare system. The demonstration was a randomized controlled trial that enrolled families from five geographically diverse sites across the country.
We considered how supportive housing impacted child welfare outcomes up to five years after randomization, including whether supportive housing (1) increased the likelihood that children were living at home, (2) increased the number of days that children spent at home, (3) decreased the likelihood that children had an open child welfare case, and (4) decreased the likelihood of children experiencing a new substantiated allegation.
Why This Matters
Homeless or precariously housed families are more likely to be involved in the child welfare system than similar families who have stable housing, and inadequate housing is a precipitating factor in about 9 percent of child welfare removals. Housing can provide families with a foundation of stability critical for children’s healthy growth, development, and well-being.
There is growing evidence that housing interventions such as supportive housing can positively impact child welfare outcomes, such as reducing removals and increasing reunification, but most studies do not examine outcomes beyond three years. This study is one of the first to examine the long-term impacts of supportive housing for families involved in the child welfare system.
What We Found
For children living at home at baseline, children in the treatment group were about 7 percentage points more likely than the control group to be at home after five years (84 percent compared with 77 percent), and they spent about 108 more days at home on average across all five study sites combined. Supportive housing did not have a significant impact on any case outcomes or the rate of new substantiated allegations by five years.
For children in out-of-home care at baseline, children in the treatment group were about 17 percentage points more likely to be reunified than children in the control group after five years (60 percent compared with 43 percent). Across all sites combined, children in the treatment group were about 19 percentage points more likely than the control group to be at home at five years (53 percent compared with 34 percent), and they spent about 326 more days at home on average. Children in the treatment and control groups were equally as likely to have a case open at five years.
Although specific results varied across child welfare outcomes and across sites, overall this study showed that supportive housing can help keep families intact and increase the amount of time children spend at home. However, supportive housing generally did not appear to reduce subsequent substantiated allegations or child welfare cases five years after randomization.
Supportive housing is one method for reducing economic hardship for child welfare–involved families, and it can be an important resource for child welfare agencies to consider as they work to improve families’ lives.
How We Did It
We utilized child welfare administrative data we received for 815 of the 861 study families to examine child welfare outcomes up to five years after randomization.