New Federal Paper Bolsters One Roof

A new brief released last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Child and Family Transitions among Families Experiencing Homelessness reinforces the need for and value of the CSH One Roof initiative. The paper is the fourth in a series that uses Family Options Study data to look at families’ experiences in the 20 months following a shelter stay.

The brief supports the idea that housing and family instability are related, and families who stay in emergency shelter have dynamic family structures. It underscores that policymakers and practitioners should seek to understand parent-child and parent-partner separations and reunifications within families experiencing homelessness. Some of the important conclusions from the brief:

  • About 30 percent of sheltered homeless families reported a separation from at least one family member.
  • Family transitions continued in the following 20 months, with 10 percent of families experiencing new  child separations and 8 percent reporting reunifications with children who had not been with the family in shelter.
  • Formal out-of-home placements were rare for children while families stayed in shelter but grew over time.
  • The separation of a child from the family while in shelter was associated with continued housing instability 20 months later.
  • Similarly, continued housing instability after a family’s initial shelter stay was associated with a child being separated from the family 20 months after that initial shelter stay.

In addition, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released earlier this year an important Information Memorandum (IM) on child welfare and homelessness. The IM is meant to help child welfare agencies implement a desired practice or rule. Identified with the IM are promising practices, one of which is Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System.

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