On January 30, 2024, Chapin Hall held a webinar titled Decreasing Child Welfare Involvement through Housing Supports: An Evaluation of Bringing Families Home (BFH). Senior research fellow Amy Dworsky started the webinar by explaining that families experiencing homelessness have a higher risk of child welfare involvement than similar families with low income with stable housing. These families tend to have co-occurring problems and need more supports than housing alone.

Dworsky explained that the Housing First approach used by the BFH program pairs subsidized housing with case management in order to address the family’s needs holistically. Vlada Gulchin from the San Francisco Human Services Commission works with the BFH program and explained that it is state-funded and requires a partnership between a local sponsor, such as the Housing Services Alliance, a service provider, like California’s Homeless Prenatal Program, and a local evaluator, such as Chapin Hall. The BFH targets families whose lack of housing is an underlying reason for their child welfare involvement. These families receive case managers—who aid in employment, resource referrals, and family well-being—and housing specialists—who provide help with securing housing, maintaining their property, and communicating with landlords. Randell Jackson, Program Manager for Supportive Housing Services, explained that the BFH program has several components: first, town halls and prescreening measures are taken prior to receiving referrals. After these referrals from child welfare agencies are received, families are matched to case managers and housing specialists. The goal for these services is to close the child welfare case, maintain stable housing, and improve family well-being.

Ms. Gulchin went into detail on how the program has shifted from finding Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) in 2017, to Rapid Rehousing (RRH) in 2023—mainly due to the lack of additional Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under PSH, there was a referral waitlist, and the vouchers were permanent. Now, with RRH, there is a lottery for subsidized housing and the goal is to increase income and sustain stable housing once that subsidy ends. Ms. Jackson explained that the challenges to RRH include a lack of affordable housing, families lack sufficient income to sustain their housing post-subsidy, families must maintain compliance with the program and regular case management for two years, and relocating large families to low income or affordable housing. The webinar concluded by stating how supportive housing can stabilize families, close child welfare cases, and result in fewer children in foster care due to prevention or reunification.

By Bayley Levine, Policy Intern