A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Collaboration: Expanding Connections with the Child Welfare System

The new Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System will promote better solutions for families while simultaneously insuring more efficient responses at the systems level.

Last month, I blogged here about the troubling intersection between families who experience homelessness and families who become involved with the child welfare system and temporarily or permanently lose custody of their children.  The research is both clear and distressing: the child welfare and family homelessness systems often serve the same families, at times with little or no communication about efforts that could lead to either prevention of family separations or rapid reunifications.

Thanks to highly creative thinkers like Bryan Samuels and Sonali Patel in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, along with some key national foundations (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [RWJF], Annie E. Casey FoundationCasey Family Programs, and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation), a new opportunity has just been annouced to promote better solutions for families while simultaneously insuring more efficient responses at the systems level.

Called Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System, HHS will be making up to $5M available annually over the next five years across five communities in the nation to support:

  • The development or expansion of triage procedures for a subset of families who come to the attention of the child welfare system due to severe housing issues and high service needs;
  • Local implementation of supportive housing services that integrate community services for housing and other critical services for the specified target population;
  • Customized case management services for children and their parents, as well as trauma-informed interventions and mental health services through partnerships to access additional services through community-based service providers; and
  • Evaluations that examine the process and outcomes for these grants.

The program builds on lessons learned from the New York City pilot called Keeping Families Together (KFT), an innovative program that brought together city agencies and supportive housing services to strengthen vulnerable families.  KFT, which was supported by RWJF and led by the Corporation for Supportive Housing, demonstrated highly positive outcomes for a small cohort of child-welfare-involved families that received a range of services integrated into their housing.

As RWJF showed us through its support for KFT, the philanthropic sector can play an important role in helping to both stimulate and cement these cross-system relationships.  The roles we can play and activities we can support include:

  • Convening:  Bringing together partners from different systems on “neutral” turf to explore and build new relationships and models for integrated approaches
  • Targeted Funding:  Funding the things that public funds can’t or won’t support, and providing the flexible funds that can be the gap-filler and “glue” that holds new partnerships together
  • Evaluation:  Studying the results of innovation and new efforts to bring multiple systems together
  • Advocacy:  Letting stakeholders from across multiple systems know about what works, and what policy changes at the local, state, and national levels can help promote the most efficient uses of resources with the potential to create the most effective responses

As communities discuss the possibility of applying for these new ACF Funding Partnerships, philanthropic sector partners with interests in both family homelessness and child welfare should be at the table, offering to join in these efforts in ways that will both strengthen local applications for federal funding, as well as enhance the abilities of their communities to mobilize the best possible responses to families struggling with both housing instability and child welfare system involvement.

David_Wertheimer_2012a.jpgDavid Wertheimer is the Deputy Director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, as well as the Board Chair of Funders Together to End Homelessness. Find him at @DavidWSeattle.



We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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