On November 17, Senator Tom Kane (D-VA) introduced S 2289, the Family Unification, Preservation and Modernization Act, a bill that would extend the Family Unification Program or “FUP.”   The 1990, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program provides housing vouchers to families involved with the child welfare system.  In 2000, Congress extended this program to youth aging out of foster care. The legislation has been endorsed by the Child Welfare League of America, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Youth Villages, Boys Town, the Forum for Youth Investment, Covenant House International, True Colors Fund, and First Focus Campaign for Children.

The legislation seeks to improve FUP by making modifications including utilizing a ‘housing first’ model, similar to the one used to address veterans’ homelessness, builds on and by strengthening the connections between local public housing agencies and child welfare agencies to promote family stabilization and reunification, and ensuring resources are identified for both youth and families to assist in their housing searches.

The legislation would require HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work together to improve system coordination and implementation of the program. It also changes the 18-month timeline for youth vouchers and replacing it with a 36-month timeline. It would also expand youth eligibility to those who are 18 to 24 who have left foster care at age 14 or older or who will leave foster care within 90 days and are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).