The Child Welfare Systems’ Vital Role in Ending Youth Homelessness

Mary Ann Haley, July 2017

Kimberley Henderson of the DC Child & Family Services presented on their efforts to recognize and resolve housing issues that were posing a significant barrier to family reunification and to stop the flows into homelessness from their child welfare system. Kimberly was brought in to the DC Child Welfare system from a housing background and also had ten children in her own foster family.

In a pilot project they launched, they established the mandate they will not graduate youth into homelessness. They also put aftercare services into place allowing youth to re-enter services even 2 or 3 years after discharge so that their youth would still has housing and education services available. In addition, they decided to have youth not age out until age 21. They established the Department of Youth Empowerment to help manage all the services youth might need as they age out and afterwards. DC is has one of the highest housing markets in country and almost all their families and youth fall below half area median income, 109K. Given these challenges, they developed a strategic housing plan for discharging youth and have aligned their goals with the federal goals– to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. In particular they have deployed strategies to revamp rapid re-Housing and partner with Housing Authorities and other housing programs.

Now they have 7 people making sure youth and families are housed, with 3 dedicated to youth. DCFA aspires to a zero tolerance of homelessness policy for youth and families and have put in the resources to do this. For more information on this presentation, see the NAEH website. For the NAEH Toolkit on Youth Rapid Re-Housing, click here.