Central Region :
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MSFMemphis Strong Families Initiative (MSFI)

Lead Organization

Community Alliance for the Homeless, Tennessee (CAFTH)


Memphis, TN

Number of families to serve

Goal is 100 families

Family Selection Criteria

Income: less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income by household size

Child welfare involvement: Families have a current substantiated abuse/neglect case, child in foster care (maximum of 90 days), services recommended post-assessment

Housing status: Presentation of homelessness (staying in a shelter, hotel paid by a 3rd party, transitional housing program, or unsheltered,) a score of 2 or higher on Housing Barrier Screen.

Household composition/residency: at least one child in their legal custody and a resident of Shelby County.

Multiple high needs: high scores on SDM and Housing Barrier Screen, at least one member of the household has a disability of long duration that could be improved with permanent housing including a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

Click here to view the Channel 3 News report on how MSFI is reducing homelessness and keeping kids out of foster care.

Partner Organizations

  • Community Alliance for the Homeless
  • Promise Development Corporation
  • Tennessee Department of Children's Services
  • Alliance Healthcare Services
  • Memphis City Schools
  • Early Success Coalition
  • Tennessee Urban Child Institute
  • Urban Youth Initiative
  • Christ Community Health Services
  • University of Tennessee, Health Science Center


Need & Overview

Homelessness in Memphis is all too often a pathway to foster care, as more than 22 percent of all substantiated maltreatment cases cite housing as the primary concern. Memphis has the highest number of children in foster care in the state. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services routinely struggles to find affordable housing for families, enabling them to reunify with their children or to prevent family dissolution. Similarly, data from the homeless system shows that 25 percent of the children who received emergency housing assistance are at high and very high risk of child maltreatment based on a research-based instrument known as Structured Decision Making ®.

The Memphis Strong Families Initiative (MSFI) aims to connect 100 of Memphis’ most vulnerable families to permanent, stable, affordable housing coupled with intensive wraparound services. Housing for families will be concentrated in 69 apartment and duplex housing units managed by a local community development corporation. An interdisciplinary team with representatives from all partners works together to coordinate services. Service delivery to families is guided by evidence-based models that specifically address trauma experienced by the adults and children while addressing other barriers impeding the achievement of family stability and self-sufficiency. Other key strategies include:

  • Promise Development Corporation’s Social Services team will use the Housing First Philosophy, Wraparound Process Model, and Motivational Interviewing in order to help families realize, develop and cultivate their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future. The Wraparound Model and its components (strength based, family focused, family driven, and future oriented) encompass the guiding principles and values that MSFI is dedicated to achieving with the help of families and community stakeholders.
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will be provided through Alliance Health Care and other trauma-informed behavioral health interventions through Promise Development’s Social Services case managers.
  • MSFI will have ongoing domestic violence training for staff with the cultivation of a stronger partnership with the Family Safety Center, a local domestic violence service provider.
  • MSFI will utilize an interdisciplinary team for the purpose of sharing information across disciplines in order to develop the best plan of action.
  • MSFI will continue to cultivate a strong relationship with the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) by placing liaisons within each agency, coordinating on Child and Family Team Meetings, and looking for innovative ways to improve the coordination between housing and child welfare.
  • Promotion of child well-being through early identification/interventions around child development, resiliency/protective factors offered through youth programming and collaboration with the school system.
  • Physical health will be promoted by a partnership with Christ Community Health Services.


Local Evaluation

MSFI is part of a larger national demonstration designed to test an intensive approach to serving families that come to the attention of the child welfare system because of problems with chronic or recurring homelessness and other serious, persistent issues such as mental illness, chemical abuse and domestic violence. The MSFI evaluation and cost study is being conducted by the University of Tennessee Heath Science Center. The evaluation will examine changes in child maltreatment and improved safety, improved housing stability, child well-being and caregiver outcomes.


What is Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System?

An innovative public-private partnership among the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. The initiative is testing an intensive approach to providing vulnerable families with safe, affordable housing together with the other services and supports that they need in order to stay together. Over five years grantees in five sites – Broward County, Fla.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Memphis, Tenn.; San Francisco; and the state of Connecticut – will bring supportive housing to approximately 500 parents and children in need.


Download the description of MSFI



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