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Homelessness in the Child Welfare System: A Randomized Controlled Trial to Assess the Impact of Housing Subsidies on Foster Care Placements and Costs

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 83 Dated: 2018 Pages: 52-61
Date Published
10 pages

The authors of this paper present their research based on two primary hypotheses that test a key assumption regarding the stated impact of the Family Unification Program (FUP), and that address a lack of policy-relevant information on FUP.


Inadequate housing and homelessness among families represent a substantial challenge for child and adolescent well-being. Child welfare services confront housing that threatens placement into foster care with little resources and evidence to guide practice. The present study provides the first rigorous test of the Family Unification Program (FUP) – a federal program that offers housing subsidies for inadequately housed families under investigation for child maltreatment. A randomized controlled trial assesses program impacts on foster care placement and costs. The experiment referred intact child welfare-involved families whose inadequate housing threatened foster placement in Chicago, IL, to FUP plus housing advocacy or housing advocacy alone. Families were referred from 2011 to 2013, and administrative data recorded dates and costs of foster placements over a three-year follow-up. Intent-to-treat analyses suggested families randomly assigned for FUP exhibited slower increases in rates of foster placement following housing intervention compared with families referred for housing advocacy alone. The program generates average savings of nearly $500 per family per year to the foster care system. Housing subsidies provide the foster care system small but significant benefits for keeping homeless families together. Findings inform the design of a coordinated child welfare response to housing insecurity. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2018