Connecticut's QRAFT evaluation; Systems change everywhere; Several important resources you won't want to miss.

View this email in your browser
Newsletter - Sixth Edition
March 12, 2015

In this issue, we will feature examples of data helping us better understand the housing needs of families in the child welfare system. Sites in San Francisco, Connecticut, and a Keeping Families Together replication in New Jersey, are helping discern families who need affordable housing from those who will do better in supportive housing. In addition, sites are encouraging systems collaboration and ultimately change, which is working to streamline and deliver vital resources to those who need them most.

Of particular note in this edition is the recent work of the University of Connecticut and the ISHF team on a pilot project to determine housing status and vulnerabilities of families involved with the child welfare system. The study was undertaken to determine if eligible families were falling through the cracks in the referral process. The results are incredibly informative and may have important implications beyond Connecticut and the demonstration initiative.

Similarly in New Jersey, where the State Department of Children and Families has created a very small pilot similar to Keeping Families Together, their data has been drilled down county by county to determine which families are “Frequently Encountered” by the child welfare system and are homeless or living in untenable conditions.

Consistent with Connecticut’s findings, the number of families fitting within the New Jersey cohort is not large —which is good news and entirely what we would expect. The intensive intervention of supportive housing has always been intended for those with the most complex needs, for whom traditional services are ineffective.

The numbers we are seeing do suggest we can scale up supportive housing for families engaged in child welfare to actually meet the need—like we have been able to do for other populations like chronic homeless individuals and veterans. These efforts have made important progress on policy challenges long thought to be unsolvable.

In addition to helping figure out the need, our demonstration is creating innovative partnerships between public systems that will serve as our vehicle to a more simplified and effective system of care for families. For instance, you will read how Cedar Rapids has successfully brought together several systems to break the logjam that for too long kept families away from vital Section 8 affordable housing vouchers. In Broward County and in Memphis, our site teams are using every tool at their disposal to ensure supportive housing works in every way for our families and leads to systems change in their communities.

The lessons we are learning through this demonstration, and the data sites are working so hard to collect and analyze, are moving us to real systems change. We are realizing something that has been enigmatic to most public systems delivering services -- how to use funding more efficiently and more effectively by targeting the most intense resources to the most appropriate families.

Working together with our partners at ACFand in the philanthropic community, it is becoming more clear we can help inform an effective, integrated and coordinated approach, changing the lives of families as well as the life trajectory of children who might otherwise grow-up in foster care.

Spotlight on Intensive Supportive Housing for Families - Connecticut

The Connecticut Intensive Supportive Housing for Families (ISHF) is using data to refine its demonstration design and advocate for lasting systems change.

The Connecticut (CT) project has three partners: the Department of Children and Families (DCF; the state child welfare agency), The Connection, Inc. (TCI; the service hub which runs the supportive housing initiative), and the University of Connecticut (UConn) evaluation team. The partners completed a 3-month pilot implementation of a “universal housing screen” with all families coming to the attention of the DCF through a child protection services investigation.

In its report on the pilot, UConn makes two key recommendations for systems change.  First, the housing screen should continue to be used in the pilot site, CT DCF Region 3.  Second, DCF should expand the use of the screener to the entire state – making this an institutionalized practice, not an isolated demonstration exercise. 
The pilot was prompted by lower than anticipated referrals to the CT housing and child welfare project in its first three quarters of implementation.

Using the Quick Risks and Assets for Family Triage (QRAFT)[1] instrument developed for the CT project, the Investigations Unit of DCF Region 3 completed a rapid appraisal of housing concerns and, when indicated, a referral to TCI on all families who experienced an investigation for maltreatment or removal of a child.
“The goal of this screening procedure was to ensure that every family underwent a housing review very early in their child welfare involvement and to enable prompt referral of families who appear to have severe to very severe housing problems,” said Jean Wigglesworth, TCI’s Project Director for ISHF. “UConn monitored the quality and process of the pilot by following all of the cases screened and consulting with the staff of the DCF investigations units, and gathering contextual data that informs the project.”
QRAFTs were completed on 616 families investigated by three different offices in DCF Region 3. Among these, most (48%) were referred to CT’s differential response system (family assessment response), 36% were unsubstantiated, and 16% (n=98) were substantiated. Less than 10 percent of the 616 families had “severe or very severe housing” problems such as frank or chronic homelessness, safety concerns, imminent eviction, current shelter stays, or imminent danger.  While many more families may have had complex needs related to mental illness, trauma, substance abuse, and/or domestic violence, the majority had no or moderate housing problems at the time of the child protection investigation.
Among the 98 cases that were substantiated, however, 21% had severe to very severe housing concerns and another 12% had housing challenges considered to be unsustainable (e.g., above 30% of income, safety concerns, instability). Families with substantiated child welfare reports experienced significantly more housing instability than the other two groups.
Not all who had severe or very severe housing problems also had other challenges that rendered them eligible for the randomized study. Those families are referred to the state’s existing supportive housing program.
Ultimately, 12 families met all the targeted eligibility criteria for the demonstration, which is intended to reach families in the child welfare system with the most significant challenges in housing as well as parent and child functioning. As a result of the QRAFT pilot, the demonstration did experience a greater proportion of referrals that were appropriate than had been experienced before the pilot. It’s important to note that most referrals to the CT project come through the child welfare program, rather than the shelter system; rates and severity of housing concerns will always reflect the specifics of the population under study.  
UConn also interviewed child welfare leadership and social work staff in DCF Region 3 to understand how their experiences with the pilot and obtain feedback on “what worked, challenges experienced, and recommendations for future implementation at other sites across the state.”  These interviews produced helpful insights including “the QRAFT was easy to use, brought housing stability to the forefront in the initial assessment process, and facilitated conversations about housing history.”  It also gave staff a better, more concrete method for targeting the appropriate families for this very intensive supportive housing service.
Expanding the use of the QRAFT statewide will not only inform the CT demonstration, it will enable a statewide examination of the apparent extent of housing instability and crisis among families referred for child welfare investigations.
The source for this report is Farrell et al., Universal Screening of Families Undergoing Child Welfare Investigation: Technical Report on CT’s Pilot of the QRAFT. March 9, 2015, University of Connecticut, Center for Applied Research.

[1] The QRAFT is an abbreviated version of the Risks and Assets for Family Triage (RAFT®) tool originally developed to inform screening on entry to CT’s Supportive Housing for Families program. ®The Connection, Inc.


Updates from the Grantees

Five grantees representing over 65 public and private collaborations are part of the national Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families with Child Welfare Involvement and are implementing family supportive housing in their communities. Behavioral health, public housing, family court, local child welfare agencies, homeless shelters and other service providers are working together across their systems, sharing resources and expertise with the goal of providing supportive housing to nearly 500 of our most vulnerable children and families by 2017.  Read here about their progress to date or visit the Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center online for more detailed information about the local demonstrations. The Resource Center provides expert technical assistance to the five sites and is a joint effort of CSH and the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP).
Memphis Strong Families Initiative (MSFI) in Tennessee and the Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center teamed up to prepare and deliver three days of intensive training and coaching around blended management strategies, engaging tenants in critical supportive housing activities to improve communications and facilitate real systems change.
  • Training focused on how property management and supportive services work with families to facilitate a better environment in supportive housing.
  • Trainers focused on such day-to-day concerns as housekeeping, stove safety, and what to do when conflicts arise between tenants.
The training produced tangible results, including:
  • New tools to use for housing inspections.
  • An increase in the sense of community among residents and staff.
  • An awareness of each staff person’s strengths.
  • A culture of cooperation and team work amongst property management, support services, and residents.
  • A strong foundation of learning, through demonstration and modeling, on how to effectively use coaching, group process, stages-of-group development, humor, and behavior modification techniques to encourage positive change within families.
  • Families Moving Forward (FMF) is continuing to improve coordination of mental health services and trauma-informed care for families, thereby strengthening the child welfare system’s integration with the mental health system.
  • FMF is encouraging families to participate in San Francisco’s innovative and nationally recognized “Jobs Now” program, which places unemployed and underemployed parents into good jobs immediately, without job training prerequisites, and pays their employers the cost of their wages for up to a year. All eligible FMF parents may participate, regardless of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility or participation.
  • FMF is screening all families for SSI eligibility. Families with disabilities that may prevent ongoing employment will receive assistance in applying for SSI benefits.
  • Strong champions within the San Francisco Housing Authority have shown flexibility towards FMF families and have accommodated the missed appointments and documentation challenges that can accompany the disorder of homeless families’ lives. They have granted housing search extensions that recognize the realities of the Bay Area’s tight housing market. They have also changed the Housing Authority’s Administrative Plan to remove all non-mandatory requirements that could be barriers to homeless families.
  • FMF is linking families to the services of a housing broker – funded by state dollars – to locate and negotiate housing placements in and outside of San Francisco conducive to Family Unification Program voucher holders.
Read the exciting update from ISHF Connecticut in the Spotlight feature above!
The collaboration of partners in the HEART Alliance has been instrumental in providing numerous services to families and is forming the basis for systems change in Broward County.

Referrals for the demonstration come from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and ChildNet, are triaged and then randomized and selected. Accepted families receive a housing voucher provided by various Broward County Housing Authorities. The Housing Coordinator and Clinical Case Managers of HEART help each family find suitable housing by working with landlords and realtors to locate appropriate properties. Furniture and essential housing goods, some of which are donated, are provided.

Once the families have been stabilized in homes, they receive wraparound services, including:

•Support from the HEART Clinical Case Managers to handle any crisis or issues that arise, parenting education and therapeutic interventions as needed, and much more.
•Urban League of Broward County provides financial readiness and employment skill building to help each family become more self-sustaining.
•Legal Aid Services of Broward County provides legal services to review leases and assist with any housing or legal issues that may arise.
• Broward Health provides seminars on health issues such as heart health, diabetes, wellness care, accident prevention, immunizations, and more.
•Women in Distress provides safe shelter when needed and domestic violence interventions and seminars for families.
Other HEART partners are Broward Addiction Recovery Center, HOPE South Florida, Barry University and Group Victory.  The collaboration of all partners and streamlining of processes have proved to be extremely beneficial in helping our families attain housing stability and self-sufficiency through subsidized housing and family support.    
PUSH-CR has realized another major milestone on the road to achieving significant systems change.
  • Over 40 PUSH-CR families have now had the opportunity to apply for Section 8 affordable housing assistance vouchers and are awaiting responses from the City of Cedar Rapids Housing.
A year ago, the March 2014 Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center Newsletter reported the City of Cedar Rapids was “poised to change its 2014 HUD Administrative Plan to include a Child and Family Welfare preference as a result of PUSH-CR’s advocacy. The changes to the plan are making their way through the public hearing and City Council process with plans to submit the revisions to HUD in April 2014, and a goal for it to become effective July 1, 2014.” In addition, PUSH-CR advocated for more housing vouchers.
  • In the last year, PUSH-CR worked feverishly to convince the City Council and then HUD to approve the revised plan.
  • PUSH-CR and our families were eager to see the preference as well as new vouchers awarded to Cedar Rapids. Without new vouchers, the waiting list became what was viewed by many as an insurmountable barrier to housing.
  • During our advocacy, we prepared staff and families for the tenant-based voucher application process through trainings and orientations from the City of Cedar Rapids Housing and completion of pre-applications.
  • On February 11, 2015 at 7:30 am when the waitlist for vouchers was lifted, PUSH-CR families were first in line to submit applications.
  • The PUSH-CR service coordination staff orchestrated transportation and child care to ensure parents could be in line when “the doors opened” and know that their children were being cared for while they completed the application.
  • The early-bird positioning has given our families the best chance to receive the available vouchers.

Demonstration Sites - Save the Date

September 16-18, 2015 in Washington, DC

2015 Supportive Housing Demonstration Convening

The Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center will host a 2 1/2 day convening for our demonstration sites from September 16-18 in Washington, DC. Details on hotel and travel will follow shortly.

Through our partnership with the Children’s Bureau, each site can use their travel budget for the Children’s Bureau annual convening for this meeting. We suggest that your site plans to include the Program Director, the child welfare agency liaison (if it is not the same), the support services lead, your housing partner (if not the same as the Program Director) and your local evaluator. The Resource Center can accommodate travel expenses for up to two (2) additional people from each site.

We have just started to sketch out the agenda based on initial feedback from sites and the recognition we will be nearing the end of nearly two years of implementation by the September convening.  We know there will be a strong emphasis on systems change and sustainability. In addition, there will be plenty of time for peer-peer learning among your colleagues, consultation on the national evaluation with the Urban Institute and updates from the Children’s Bureau.

The recent frontline meeting in Broward County was very successful due, in part, to the active participation of site volunteers on the planning committee.  We hope to replicate that success and ask that your site designate someone (or more!) for the planning committee.  Please let your site liaison or Leah Rhea know who that volunteer will be.  Other ways you can get involved in the planning include:

  • Submitting a session proposal
  • Reviewing a draft agenda in May and providing feedback during a cluster call
  • Sharing your ideas directly with your liaison about what your priorities are for our convening.
Please let Leah Rhea know if you have any concerns or questions at

We look forward to seeing you in DC.

Our Supporters Help Propel Our Progress
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children, & Families (ACF), and four national foundations developed the $35 million public-private partnership designed to demonstrate the effectiveness and potential cost-savings of projects that link supportive housing and social services to strengthen fragile families and keep children out of the foster care system.  Collaborating  and funding foundations include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. This initiative is an outgrowth of the success of Keeping Families Together, which showed tremendous positive outcomes for families and cost-effectiveness for the public sector. To learn more about this exciting initiative, please click here.
The Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center is grateful for the continued interest of the ACF, and the generosity of our funders.

Newsletter Idea?

Do you have suggestions or submissions (photos welcomed) for our Newsletter? Please email them to CW&SHRC Newsletter Staff.
Evaluation News
Urban Institute Dashboard
January 2015

Cross Demonstration Enrollment Progress
(See Table below for detail)

Source: Dashboard information submitted to Urban Institute

The Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center has compiled the following highlights from the dashboard supplied by the Urban Institute, the independent evaluators of the demonstration initiative. These snapshots are intended to help sites and partner agencies get a quick overview of progress as of date of dashboard.
160 families have been housed = 73% of 220 families in the treatment group
220 families enrolled in “treatment” = 46% of 475 family goal

  • 815 families referred to demonstration nationwide (16% increase from our last snapshot)
  • 508 families have been found eligible for the demonstration (13% increase from our last snapshot)
  • 160 families have been housed (14% increase from our last snapshot)
  • 73 families have the goal of reunification (14% increase from our last snapshot)
  • 144 families have the goal of preservation (12.5% increase from our last snapshot)
  • 3 families have goals of reunification and preservation (0% increase from last snapshot)
Table: Cross-Site Enrollment
Site Month Started
In 2013
Enrolled as of January 2015
Target Goals
Memphis August 62 62% 31 47% 100 66
San Francisco October 42 28% 41 27% 150 150
Broward October 46 92% 99 99% 50 100
Cedar Rapids November 51 41% 49 117% 125 42
Connecticut* December 19 38% 38 38% 50 100
19 38% 50
TOTALS 220 46% 258 62% 475 418
*Connecticut has two “treatment” groups: top row reflects activity in the federal grant-funded Intensive Supportive Housing for Families (ISHF); bottom row reflects activity in the existing Supportive Housing (SHF). Only ISHF numbers are included in shaded column totals.
Check Out These Additional Resources

The February 2015 Edition of NJAMHAA Newsletter focuses on family supportive housing in New Jersey, explaining the New Jersey Department of Children and Families Keeping Families Together replication pilot program.

The Urban Institute research report, February 2015, Helping Families Involved in the Child Welfare System Achieve Housing Stability: Implementation of the Family Unification Program in Eight States.

The March 2015 Edition of Children’s Bureau Express includes a focus on housing.

The United States Interagency Council on Homeless shines the spotlight on Keeping Families Together.

From January 26 - 28, the Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center convened a Frontline Peer Visit attended by all five demonstration sites. HEART, in Broward County, Florida, provided a warm welcome to our colleagues from Connecticut, Memphis, Cedar Rapids and San Francisco. Read the highlights from the Peer Visit, what was accomplished, where we are going, and then view the colorful story boards and valuable resources.

Basecamp Download

Have you checked out Basecamp lately? It provides a space for grantees to connect, reflect and engage in online discussions that can help with implementation and learning across all sites. 
You can use this virtual space to share stories, experiences and solve problems. Participate when you wish just by reading what others have submitted, submitting and receiving advice and feedback from the community or posting resources you have found useful. 

Recent information shared includes: 

Cross-Site Convenings

       Presentation slides and follow-up material from Charlyn Harper Browne’s session on Protective Factors at the Broward County Frontline Meeting in January 2015
  •        Summary notes and participant evaluations of the Broward Frontline Meeting

If you need a user name and password for Basecamp, please contact Sarah Morrison

Copyright © 2015 CSH, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences