On Friday, CASCW co-sponsored a reflective seminar that discussed the role of supportive housing in child welfare practice. I thought this seminar was particularly relevant to this blog, as recent research from CASCW has shown that supportive housing can greatly reduce incidences of involvement in child protection and out-of-home care, thereby increasing a child's chances of permanency and stability. These are some highlights from the seminar.
Definitions of supportive housing
Adult: Permanent, affordable, independent, with flexible (and voluntary) service integration (though services are not a condition of the lease agreement, clients following a case plan must participate).
Youth: Can be host homes, transitional living programs, or permanent housing; services are not voluntary, include youth development, activities, case management, and independent living skills. Also have rules and requirements.
Supportive housing services are also "sticky" in that case managers stay with clients regardless of the system in which they are involved, e.g. child protective services. They also help clients coordinate services among various systems, such as between child protection case manager and psychiatrist.
Issues to consider: Homelessness and older youth
According to Stephanie Harms, Chief of Staff of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, it's important to include (multiple) housing plans in a youth's SELF plan. Older youth may be more eager to leave the 'system' than to think about the very real possibility of homelessness. Unless that child's family had been homeless at one point, the reality of 'homelessness' may not be fully understood.
Also, an issue arises when one considers how funds received dictate service provision. For example, the federal definition of 'homelessness' does not include instances of substandard or inadequate housing. As Beth Holger-Ambrose put it, when you have to weigh the difference between a kid with no roof over her head versus someone living in a Port-a-Potty in Loring Park, the former will be more likely to be considered for programming because the latter at least has a roof over her head.
Permanency & stability through supportive housing
The concept of supportive housing can work to ensure that families stay together by providing low-income, vulnerable families with often-permanent subsidized housing while extending needed services at the same time. This in turn leads to both permanency and stability for the children in said families. Additionally, for those youth aging out of care, youth supportive housing can work to provide stability in an otherwise potentially tumultuous time in the lives of these youth, as they adjust to living on their own.