• June 2012
  • Vol. 13, No. 5

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Supportive Housing and Child Welfare Outcomes

The provision of concrete services, such as housing, can have a positive impact on child welfare outcomes. A new publication by the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) highlights results from a longitudinal study in Minnesota evaluating the role of supportive housing on homeless children's well-being, specifically, educational and child welfare outcomes.

Emergency and transitional housing programs often provide temporary housing solutions. Supportive housing programs, however, serve families with long histories of homelessness and provide other social services to help families move toward subsidized or unsubsidized permanent housing.

The authors set out to answer the following questions:

  1. Does receipt of supportive housing services affect children's school attendance rates, school mobility, academic achievement, and rates of Individualized Education Plans (IEP)?
  2. Does receipt of supportive housing services reduce child protection involvement over time?
  3. Do outcomes of children receiving supportive housing services change at significantly different rates than their homeless peers?

Four supportive housing cohorts included students in grades 3–6 (one grade per cohort) receiving services from September 2006 to August 2007. They were tracked for 3 years (ending in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 during the 2008–2009 school year) and evaluated across five indicators: school mobility, school attendance, performance on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II (MCA-II) test, existence of an IEP, and involvement with child protective services.

Hearth Connection—a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing services to families with long histories of homelessness—and the Minnesota Departments of Education and Human Services provided data for the study.

Findings included the following:

  • Students receiving supportive housing services attended school at higher rates than students in the comparison groups.
  • School mobility decreased over time for students receiving supportive housing services and increased over time for students in the comparison group.
  • Performance on the MCA II-Math were mixed for all cohorts but one. There was no significant relationship between receipt of supportive housing services and performance on the MCA II-Reading over time.
  • While the number of students with IEPs increased in both the supportive hosing cohorts and the comparison group, data showed that the number of students with an IEP in the supportive housing group increased at higher rates than that in the comparison group.
  • Children receiving supportive housing services had declining involvement with child protection, whereas children in the comparison group had increased involvement. Additionally, the number of children with child protection involvement, the number of child protection reports, and the number of substantiated maltreatment reports decreased significantly each year for the supportive housing group.

The Role of Supportive Housing in Homeless Children's Well-Being: An Investigation of Child Welfare and Educational Outcomes, by Saahoon Hong and Kristine N. Piescher, is available on the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare website:

http://www.cehd.umn.edu/ssw/cascw/attributes/PDF/minnlink/Report_No11.pdf (2 MB)

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