Housing Matters & Housing Works


NCHCW focuses heavily on housing because history, research, and reports from the field indicate that housing instability is a major problem among child welfare families - triggering removal, delaying reunification, and creating conditions that lead to deleterious effects on child well-being. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (2018), housing problems are commonplace among child welfare families; one in ten foster children are removed due to inadequate housing. We have a solid base of evidence to indicate that solving family housing problems reduces caseloads, improves family well-being, and results in significant cost savings (Harburger & White, 2004; Farrell, 2016; Fowler, 2017; Littel & Scheurman, 2004; Shinn, 2016, U.S. Children’s Bureau, 2017).

A number of current studies are available to help build an understanding of the intersection of housing and child welfare.

FAMILIES AT THE NEXUS OF HOUSING AND CHILD WELFARE Amy Dworsky, Ph.D. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago November 2014

Intersections of Family Homelessness, CPS Involvement, and Race in Alameda County, California Jason M. Rodrigueza and Marybeth Shinn June 2016

Housing interventions to keep families together and safe are good public investments.

Housing is also cheaper than foster care or residential treatment. In the absence of an adequate supply of safe, decent, and affordable housing, child welfare workers often must separate homeless and precariously housed families in order to protect children from the lingering effects of homelessness. In fact, nearly 30 percent of the children in foster care are there because their parents lack adequate housing. The federal funding available to help these families will cover the cost of foster care, but not the cost of housing and supportive services to keep the families together and safe.

In an effort to encourage policy makers to allow flexibility in these funds so that these children can return home, or avoid foster care altogether, NCHCW recently conducted a study of federal child welfare funds (Title IV-E) to compare the cost of foster care to the cost of using federal funds to subsidize housing and provide services for these families in order to reunite them.

This research shows considerable savings to states when Title IV-E funding is used to subsidize housing and supportive services. In fact, the U.S. would save $ $773,773,269 if housing plus services intervention were applied to all Title IV-E eligible families who need it, or $32,885 per family.Read our latest cost analysis here.

If you would like to know the cost savings for your community - try our free cost analysis calculator and kit here.


Rapid Rehousing can be extremely problematic. Compare these two stories:

I was turned down from Rapid Re-Housing because I work. I’m living in a shelter alone in DC, I was told I make too much money. I can’t get help to get out because I have a job.

— tiara


I work as a CNA. I’m part time now, sometimes I’m full time. But I don’t make enough to afford rent. Because I can’t get full time hours, I can’t get approved for rapid rehousing. I’m on the Section 8 list but I live in my grandmom’s housing unit with my kids. It’s illegal to do that.