New York City Pilot Program Shows Promise for Decreasing Child Welfare Involvement by 60 Percent for At-Risk Families

Corporation for Supportive Housing releases study results on their 'Keeping Families Together' pilot project designed to protect children and reunite families involved in the city's child welfare system

Feb 02, 2011, 10:08 ET from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

NEW YORK, Feb. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) announced evaluation results of their cutting-edge Keeping Families Together pilot program. The results show the program's comprehensive, supportive housing intervention makes major strides in stopping entrenched, generational cycles of abuse and neglect for the city's most at-risk families. The study tracked 29 participating New York City families from October 2007 to July 2009.

The program resulted in the closure of more than half (61.1%) of the participating families' child welfare cases and six children who had been removed from their families by children's services were reunited by the conclusion of the evaluation. No children were removed from their home during the pilot period.

The Keeping Families Together program is founded on the notion that supportive housing involving coordinated public support systems, can help stabilize vulnerable families and enhance children's safety. The model combined permanent, affordable housing with a range of on and off site services—like substance abuse treatment, medication management, parenting skills training, and career counseling—designed to address the needs of the most at-risk families.

The program also leveraged the collaboration of a number of city agencies, including the NYC Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) among others. The ongoing interagency collaboration was key in serving populations with needs that span multiple systems.

"This study sheds light on how we can have the most impact by using a supportive housing model to prevent foster care system involvement, which we know often has long-term effects on children's mental health and overall stability," said Alison Harte, Keeping Families Together Project Director, CSH. "Most of our families included parents who had suffered neglect as children and were continuing that cycle with their children. With the Keeping Families Together intervention, the cycle of abuse started to dissipate and then subside. That is significant progress and an indication that we should start to incorporate this type of model for children and families in at-risk situations," added Harte.

The evaluation report strongly suggests Keeping Families Together's positive impact on children's safety:

  • Pre-program involvement, there were 101 cases of abuse/neglect; post-involvement there were 13
  • 22 of the 37 ACS cases (61%) were closed
  • Child welfare cases intended to prevent foster care placement, as well as to expedite discharge of children from foster care and reunite them with their families were favorably resolved in an average of 10 months compared to the ACS system-wide goal of 12 months for this kind of case
  • All of the six KFT children in foster care with a goal of reunification were returned to their families; and as of May 31, 2010, five of the six (83.3%) reunified children had been back with their families for more than 12 months

"The Keeping Families Together program shows just how much can be accomplished when we work to provide a continuum of services to support vulnerable families and keep children safe," said John B. Mattingly, Commissioner of New York City's Administration for Children's Services. "Supportive housing gave families the critical on-site support and assistance needed to allow them to remain safely together and helped to prevent children from coming into foster care."

Further, upon placement in supportive housing, all Keeping Families Together families received comprehensive, individualized case management and services which yielded the following results:

  • Nearly all of the families that entered with a substance abuse problem were reported to be clean and sober at the end of the evaluation period
  • Participating school-aged children showed steady average increases in school attendance after move-in
  • By the end of the pilot period, 26 of the 29 families remained in supportive housing; in comparison the 15 control group families that met Keeping Families Together eligibility but were not placed in supportive housing typically remained in homeless shelters, with an average shelter stay ranging from 15-39 months

"Supportive housing is a valuable resource for families with special needs and fosters long term stability," said Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond. "Working together with our sister agencies and groups like Corporation for Supportive Housing we can customize solutions for homeless families."

With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CSH developed the Keeping Families Together pilot program to determine the impact of a program focused on caring for the whole family to keep children out of the foster care system.

To address the goal of preventing children from being placed in foster care, families had to have current child welfare involvement (i.e., an open ACS case) to be eligible for Keeping Families Together. They also had to qualify as "chronically homeless or at serious risk of becoming chronically homeless families, in which the head of the household suffers from a substance abuse disorder, a disabling medical condition or HIV/AIDS." Chronic homelessness was defined as "a family that has lived in a homeless shelter for at least 365 days of the last two years, not necessarily consecutively."

About Corporation for Supportive Housing

For 20 years, CSH has been the leader in the national supportive housing movement. It is a catalyst for housing connected with services to prevent and end homelessness. CSH develops innovative program models, provides research-backed tools and training, offers development expertise, makes loans and grants, and collaborates on public policy and systems reform to make it easier to create and operate high quality supportive housing. CSH's goal is to help communities create 150,000 units of supportive housing  nationwide by 2012.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.


Nicole Stipp


SOURCE Robert Wood Johnson Foundation