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March 2015Vol. 16, No. 2The Relationship Between Housing and Child Welfare

While much work has been done to address the interrelated issues of housing insecurity and child welfare involvement, studies continue to show that there is a significant relationship between the two. Families that are homeless or who face unstable housing situations tend to have higher rates of involvement in the child welfare system than families with a more stable housing situation. A recently published issue brief from First Focus' State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) explores the relationship between housing and child welfare, examines why child welfare agencies should address families' housing needs, and describes what some agencies are already doing to address these issues.

The brief begins by summarizing the current knowledge about the relationship between housing and child welfare involvement. It goes on to discuss the prevalence of housing problems among families involved in child welfare as well as possible explanations for the higher rate of involvement among homeless or unstably housed families. The brief suggests that, while housing families does not explicitly fall into the mandate of child welfare agencies, helping families to stabilize their housing situations can help to reduce risks to children's health and safety and may therefore help lower the rate of out-of-home placement.

Strategies that are currently being used by child welfare agencies to address families' housing needs are discussed. The brief includes examples from several States, and it also discusses the Family Unification Program, a Federal program authorized by Congress in 1990 that provides housing choice vouchers to families in unstable housing situations whose children are at risk of out-of-home placement or who cannot be reunited with their parents due to inadequate housing. Three types of housing interventions are also explored in detail:

  • Rapid rehousing
  • Transitional housing
  • Supportive housing

The brief concludes with a discussion of implications for policy, practice, and future research. Access Families at the Nexus of Housing and Child Welfare, by Amy Dworsky, at (230 KB).