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Family Unification Program FAQ

Strengthening America's Families Through Affordable Housing

The Family Unification Program (FUP) is the only national housing program designed to prevent children from entering foster care unnecessarily as a result of their family's housing problems. It is also available to families to reunite them with children who are otherwise unable to leave foster care as a consequence of their parents' inability to obtain safe, decent housing. FUP is based on local level partnerships between housing authorities and child welfare agencies. Public housing authorities provide Section 8 subsidies to families who are under case management contracts with the local child welfare agency. FUP is considered a model for collaboration because the housing authorities provide the housing and the child welfare agencies provide case management services to help the families become stable and healthy. Since the award of the initial vouchers in 1992, FUP has grown to a total of over 39,000 vouchers. In 2000, the program was extended to provide time-limited housing choice vouchers to youth "aging out" of the foster care system. FUP is administered by HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing.

Even though your community may not have any FUP vouchers available currently- you can still partner with your local child welfare or housing authority to build a partnership and follow the Family Unification Model to serve families involved with the child welfare system or youth aging out of foster care (i.e., prioritize section 8 vouchers for youth or families at risk of separation or those unable to reunite due to housing).

FUP is designed to:
  1. serve families in the child welfare system that are at risk of losing their children to foster care or who are unable to reunite with a child primarily due to a housing problem and;
  2. ease the transition to adulthood for young people aging out of the foster care system.
It has been reported that as many as 30 percent of children in foster care would be reunited with their parents if safe, affordable housing were available. The separation of families due solely to a lack of safe, decent, affordable housing is costly in both human and financial terms. The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) estimates that keeping the children of one family in foster care averages about $47,608 dollars annually. The average cost of supportive services and permanent housing for a family of this size for one year would be a fraction of this, approximately $13,412.

In fact, recent research by CWLA estimates that serving all of the families whose children are in the foster care system as a consequence of housing problems would save taxpayers $1.94 billion annually.

It is estimated that 25,000 children and youth leave foster care each year. Unfortunately, many of these young people are ending up homeless and precariously housed at an alarming rate - in fact, perhaps as many as 12-25%. A recent survey identified housing as one of the most critical needs young people face upon exiting the foster care system. In an effort to address this critical need - as of the year 2000, young people, ages 18 to 21, who left foster care after the age of 16 became eligible for FUP.

Since FUP was first created, HUD has funded 39,191 FUP Section 8 vouchers allowing more than 100,000 children and their families to obtain safe, decent, affordable housing. More than 90 percent of at-risk families in FUP remained together, and 85 percent were still living in Section 8 housing after one year.

FUP requires intense interagency collaboration at the local level. It is administered through a partnership between public housing authorities, which award and administer the subsidies, and child welfare agencies, which deliver the services. Often, other community-based organizations are included to provide additional services over a longer period of time. More than 900 agencies have participated in FUP nationally.

Vouchers available to youth are somewhat different than those for families. First, while FUP vouchers for families are renewed yearly, these vouchers are time-limited so that a young person may only have the voucher for 18 months. Additionally, the agency that refers a young person to this program is responsible for providing aftercare services to each youth who gets housing. However, to relieve the burden on workers, child welfare agencies can contract with other agencies to provide these aftercare services. These are opportunities to get creative with different streams of funding.

Since its inception in 1992, HUD has awarded over 39,000 FUP Section 8 vouchers allowing more than 100,000 children to return home from foster care or avoid out of home placement altogether. HUD awarded an average of 3,560 vouchers to public housing authorities each year between 1992 and 2001. However, in FY 2002 and FY 2003, HUD opted not to issue Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) for FUP, even though the Tenant Protection Fund (out of which FUP is funded) had carry-over funds of $18 million and $33 million in each of those years respectively. To date, HUD still not released funds for the Family Unification Program.

HUD's decision to ignore FUP comes in the face of a growing need for the housing and services it provides. It is important to note that the President's budget request for the Tenant Protection Fund in the FY07 Budget is proposed for $149 million. In FY06, it was funded at $215 million and $125 million in FY05. However, the last time FUP vouchers were awarded was in 2001. There has been more than enough money in this line item to issue vouchers for FUP.

We hope that House and Senate committee leaders will urge Secretary Jackson to release a minimum of $10 million of the funds in HUD's Tenant Protection Fund immediately to issue a FUP Notice of Funding Availability for the purpose of promoting family unification and successful transitions to adulthood for hundreds of young people in foster care.

We suggest the following language to be inserted into the FY2007 Appropriations Bill:

"The Committee finds that as many as 30 percent of children in foster care are separated from their parents because the family is unable to find safe and affordable housing. These separations are emotionally devastating to both parents and children, and the resulting child welfare placements are considerably more expensive than a housing voucher and services - $48,000 for the average family compared to $13,500. Furthermore, the committee finds that young people who age out of the foster care system experience homelessness at alarming rates. Communities can provide services and housing for less than $6,000 annually while the cost of residential treatment and incarceration of these youth often exceeds $55,000 annually."

"Accordingly, the Committee directs HUD to spend not less than 10 million dollars from the Tenant Protection Fund on new incremental housing vouchers to be issued during FY2007 by NOFA under the Family Unification Program (FUP)"

Advocates for the housing needs of youth and at-risk families should contact their Congressional delegation and Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees to continue to express support for FUP. Locally, advocates should promote interagency collaboration between the local housing authority, child welfare agency, and youth-serving community organizations.

For more information, please feel free to contact Charlene Ingram at or 856/566-9454.

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