The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW)
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NCHCW links housing resources to child welfare agencies to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, safely reduce the need for out-of-home placement, and ensure that each young person who ages out foster care is able to access safe, decent, permanent housing.
NCHCW makes the housing-child welfare connection on three key levels:
Policy: Housing and child welfare policies must reflect the real needs of families. For example, NCHCW revived $20 million in funding for FUP so that child welfare can appropriately match housing needs with services.
Program: Communication between systems is key. Bringing system chiefs together can result in resources for cw families and youth. For example, HACLV set aside 50 vouchers for youth.
Practice: All workers must know about resources and where to get them. NCHCW cross-trains front line workers and improves relationships.
"If we can invest resources that we now spend to have kids in foster care to help stabilize their families so that they can take care of their own kids, that would be better for the kids, better for the families, and better for the child-welfare system," Donald says. "The system's past failures are not due to lack of resources. They really are not. And that definitely includes Baltimore City." Instead, she says resources have been poorly allocated. It is cheaper to provide services for families than to house kids in group homes, which can cost the system $72,000 a year per child. (MD DHR Secretary Brenda Donald, June 10, 2009, Baltimore City Paper)
Without housing resources, states will continue to fall short of the ASFA goals of safety, permanency, and well-being.
In a 2001 review of family preservation and family support programs, Chaffin, Bonner, and Hill found that programs designed to meet basic needs were more effective at preventing recurrence of maltreatment than programs which offered parenting and child development-oriented services.
Eamon and Koppel (2004) found that “Norman” families (those families assisted with housing subsidies) had reduced rates of out-of- home placement, fewer days in substitute care, and a greater rate of reunification resulting in significant cost savings to the department.
Sustained investments make the difference in preventing recurrence of maltreatment
in cases of great financial stress, a small handout or purchase of equipment may not tangibly improve the plight of families.
Ryan & Schuerman (2004) found that families who received housing improved their circumstances, while families who received cash assistance continued to have problems. They theorize that this is because in order to get cash assistance, you have to continue to report problems – which is not the case with housing assistance.