Illinois Department of Children and Families Youth Housing Assistance Program


Best Practice | August 11, 2006

In 1999, Congress enacted the Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA), authorizing $140 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to improve service delivery for foster youth transitioning out of care. FCIA includes a provision allowing states to use 30% of federal independent living dollars on room and board.

With the implementation of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, Illinois embarked on developing a Youth Housing Assistance Program, which provides housing advocacy and cash assistance to youth aging out of foster care. The program was modeled on Illinois' Norman housing advocacy program, which provides housing services to families at risk of involvement in child protective services due to the lack of safe and stable housing.

The program was built on research that demonstrates that housing is essential to stabilizing clients and providing services to meet their needs. The Department for Children and Families involved advocates, current and former foster youth, providers, and state agency officials in the development of the program. DCFS chose several housing advocacy agencies that they had existing relationships with and placed 16 Housing Advocates throughout the state to help youth locate affordable housing and access social services for stabilization.

Target Population

Illinois' Youth Housing Assistance Program targets youth at high risk of becoming homeless who are approaching emancipation or who have already emancipated from the foster care system. Housing advocacy is provided for youth between the ages of 17 1/2 and 21 and cash assistance is provided to youth between the ages of 18 and 21.

Referral Process

Caseworkers refer youth to the Youth Housing Assistance Program six months before emancipation if they are in need of housing services. Youth must submit a request for Housing Advocacy and/or Cash Assistance to the Youth Housing Assistance Coordinator. Youth is assigned to a Housing Advocate located in their region for services.



  • Housing Advocacy -- service to help youth locate housing, receive budget counseling, and gain access to community resources and social services.
  • Start-up Grant -- Youth can receive up to $800 ($1200 if youth is parenting, pregnant, or disabled) to cover start up costs including deposits, furniture, appliances, etc. The start-up grants assist youth to move in to housing at the time of emancipation.
  • Partial Housing Subsidy -- If youth's housing cost exceeds 30% of their income, their landlord will receive up to $100 per month for up to 12 months following the youth's emancipation. The monthly subsidy is designed to be large enough to provide a cushion for young people learning to live on their own for the first time, but small enough to discourage youth from becoming dependent on the subsidy.
  • Cash assistance -- Cash assistance may be used for housing security deposits, rent, partial rental subsidies, furniture, appliances, utilities, and other item required for youth to avoid or manage a crisis. Youth are provided up to $2000 per 12-month period following emancipation to help youth stabilize after a crisis. If any employed youth loses a job and needs to pay rent before another job is secured, youth is eligible for $600 one-time exception. Lifetime limit for all types of cash assistance is $4000.

Source of Funding

  • Follow-up services for a minimum of three months after the client secures appropriate housing.


Funding Source

Federal Chafee Independent Living Program

For more information, contact:

Ted Earnst
Youth Housing Assistance Coordinator
Illinois Department of Children and Families
Phone: (312) 814-5571

John Cheney Egan
Housing Specialist
Illinois Department of Children and Families
Phone: (312) 814-1878