In 2012, the Children’s Bureau awarded five sites grants to provide supportive housing to child welfare–involved families. Eligible families included those in which children were at risk of being removed into out-of-home care and families with children in out-of-home care where housing instability was an impediment to reunification. Each site identified high-need families. Although the definitions varied, sites included families that were homeless or unstably housed and had one or two co-occurring issues, such as a caregiver with a substance use issue, a mental health problem, and intimate partner violence, among others. Sites began enrolling families in 2013, and the grants ran through 2018.
The Urban Institute conducted a randomized controlled trial, first measuring outcomes one or two years after randomization. With new funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Urban has conducted a follow-up study to learn whether supportive housing led to longer-term impacts. This brief draws from our evaluation of this multisite demonstration to highlight the design and implementation features that emerged as most robust.
We describe how and why certain programmatic features should be built into supportive housing programs for child welfare–involved homeless families. Topics covered include which families to target to achieve the greatest impact using a scarce and expensive resource and how to identify those families; the need for a strong partnership and coordinated system; and service provision. Recognizing that the evaluation is based on only five sites, we conclude with suggestions for further testing.