Child Welfare Agencies Should Use Rapid Re-Housing

written by Sharon McDonald
September 11, 2013

The families who child welfare agencies serve are often very poor, with very limited resources. Many struggle to meet their basic needs, including the need for safe, affordable housing. Despite the importance of stable housing as a platform to help families and children thrive, child welfare agency caseworkers often lack the tools and resources they need to help address families’ housing needs.

The important role child welfare agencies serve in protecting children and preserving families is more challenging when families lack housing.

We have learned a lot about how to help families experiencing housing crises in recent years in the homeless services community. One of the biggest innovations is rapid re-housing. Rapid re-housing providers help families look for housing in the community, negotiate with landlords, and provide short-term rent assistance so families don’t have to wait until they find employment and save enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent before they move out of homeless shelter programs.

These programs have been enormously successful. It has reduced the time that parents and children are without homes to call their own. It has also reduced shelter stays and the instability that often goes along with being homelessness. Since parents receive follow-up case management services after they have been re-housed, including help finding and keeping jobs, families who are rapidly re-housed stay housed.

Rapid re-housing can be a useful tool for child welfare agencies. The expertise that homeless service providers have developed to implement rapidly re-housing – including working with landlords, finding housing, and providing short-term rent assistance - can also be beneficial for child welfare agencies working with families who have housing issues.

If child welfare agencies can reduce the amount of time it takes to help parents with housing problems find a new place to live, it allows them to reunite children with their parents that much faster. That’s better for children.

We hope that child welfare agencies and housing/homeless service programs will examine how they can partner at the local level to meet the housing needs of families served by child welfare agencies.  Today, we are releasing a paper, "The Role of Child Welfare Agencies in Improving Housing Stability for Families," which examines steps that child welfare agencies can take to address the housing needs of the families they serve, which include developing partnerships between child welfare agencies and housing/homeless service programs.

We hope this is something that you will consider promoting in your community.