On August 5, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare hosted the webinar “FUP and FYI: Overview and Getting Started.” Last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduced the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI) to prevent homelessness among youth, who are aging out of foster care without a stable home. FYI makes a few changes to the existing Family Unification Program (FUP), which provides housing vouchers for families who are precariously housed and are facing potential family separation as a result. FYI funding is available through the Tenant Protection Fund (TPF).

The webinar consisted of presentations from Jamole Callahan from Foster ACTION Ohio (and an alumnus of care); John Egan,MSW from Illinois  Department of Children and Family Services; Michael Outric from Ohio State University (and an alumnus of care); and Ruth White from the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW).

Jamole Callahan explained that by 2013, the gaps that the FUP program had in synchronizing with emancipation and the limitations in the areas they were available in were unrealistic. In 2014, HUD was able to understand these synchronization problems, but there were still problems in referrals due to the unpredictable nature of FUP voucher availability. It was noted that CWLA was where family unification training had started in the late 1990s. In the most recent advocacy efforts, Foster ACTION Ohio was pleasantly surprised that the initiative was published only four months after their original advocacy started this year. They believed that FYI is a housing program for foster youth alumni that is a pathway to self-sufficiency.

John Egan and Michael Outrich both discussed the need for partnerships especially having a designated worker in child welfare offices to meet at least quarterly to ensure there is forecasting of which youth will be aging out and when they will need vouchers. It is also essential to have a knowledgeable person to explain the program to youth and help them through the process. With the new FYI program, Independent Living Coordinators can file FUP paperwork with the Public Housing Authority three to six months before youth leave care. Public Child Welfare agencies should also assist with landlord recruitment and positive youth development through the age of 23. An important distinction is that FYI will not change the FUP eligibility criteria. When young people apply for FYI, the waitlist for FUP will not be impacted. FYI still acknowledges that some youth will struggle, but will prioritize permanent supportive housing units to eliminate some of the transition issues. Ruth White ended the presentation stating that foster youth homelessness has been a “government-created problem” because there have not been places for youth who leave foster care to go and there have been holes in safety nets. However, FYI takes a significant step in the right direction to help support foster youth transitioning into adulthood.

The National Center for Housing & Child Welfare is offering weekly forums with youth and housing experts who worked with HUD to design FYI every Monday in August. For more information and to RSVP for the remaining August webinars, click here.