HHS/ASPE. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.Background

ASPE REPORT

Housing Assistance for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care: The Role of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program

May 2012

By:
Michael R. Pergamit, Marla McDaniel, Amelia Hawkins

Each year the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program provides $140 million for independent living services to assist youth as they age out of foster care and enter adulthood. Under this formula grant program, states are provided allocations and allowed to use up to 30 percent of program funds for room and board for youth ages 18 to 21 who have left care. This report describes how states are using these funds to provide housing assistance to these vulnerable youth and explores how the assistance provided through this program fits in with other sources of housing assistance available in the states examined.

This report is available on the Internet at:
http://aspe.hhs.gov/aspe/chaffeefostercare/rpt.shtml

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Acknowledgements

This report was prepared by the Urban Institute for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (DHHS/ASPE) under Task Order No. HHSP23337017T (UI Project 08350-017-00). Laura Radel was the task order officer and provided valuable guidance throughout the project and on the final report. Martha Moorehouse (DHHS/ASPE) and Anne Fletcher and Todd Shenk (HUD) also provided useful comments on an earlier draft of the report. We also thank the Independent Living Coordinators and other child welfare staff for their time and input about housing support for youth aging out of foster care in their states. All errors are those of the authors.

Contents

Executive Summary

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), contracted with the Urban Institute to examine strategies in place to assist youth in foster care with housing after they have aged out of foster care, with a particular focus on efforts funded through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.

Each year the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program provides $140 million for independent living services to assist youth as they age out of foster care and enter adulthood. Under this formula grant program, states are provided allocations and allowed to use up to 30 percent of program funds for room and board for youth ages 18 to 21 who have left care. This report focuses primarily on how states spend their Chafee funding to provide housing support for youth and concentrates on the states that, according to the plans they filed with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), indicated they would spend the maximum 30 percent on room and board. We focus on these states because we were interested in the housing assistance models supported by states under the Chafee program, and reasoned that those states spending little of their funding for this purpose were unlikely to have model programs funded through this source. A complementary study funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is identifying housing programs for this population funded through other means.

To give a sense of how much support states might provide for each youth using Chafee funds, consider that given the number of youth who aged out of foster care in the states studied and the amount of funding available, each state could provide housing assistance of $452 per year per youth, or $38 per month per youth. Given that not all youth require housing support, or may not require the funds available through the Chafee program, this dollar estimate represents a lower bound. But put another way, to support youth at only $300 per month, the available funding would support approximately one-eighth of currently eligible youth in these states.

In order to gather information on how states use Chafee funds to address youths’ housing needs, we examined published documents, web pages, and other sources of information during the spring and summer of 2011 and contacted key state informants, primarily state Independent Living Coordinators (who administer the Chafee program in their states and coordinate their state’s efforts regarding transition planning and services for older youth in foster care), to fill in any missing information. It is important to point out that this report provides detail on housing assistance and services to youth formerly in foster care in only one-third of the states. We emphasize that these states may not represent the United States as a whole, but reflect only those that chose to use the maximum amount of their Chafee allocation on housing. Although they provide rich information about Chafee room and board assistance, conclusions cannot be drawn about support to youth aging out of foster care in other states. Dworsky and Havlicek (2009) provide details of some other housing programs across many states.

For the states that planned to use approximately 30 percent of the Chafee allotment for room and board assistance, this report addresses how they use Chafee funds and other federal and state resources to package and provide housing assistance until age 21 to youth formerly in foster care.

States typically use Chafee Room and Board funds to provide three basic types of support: rental start-up costs, ongoing support, and emergency uses.

Of the 17 states examined, nearly all used their Chafee room and board funds for one or more of three basic types of support: start-up costs, ongoing support, and emergency uses. States vary somewhat in what they will cover with Chafee funding, but in general the funding covers security deposits, utility hook-ups, household goods, and other start-up expenses. Those providing monthly rental assistance do so for a limited period, usually one year. Several states gradually reduce the amount of rent they’ll cover and require the youth to pick up an increasing share of the rent over time.

A small number of states use Chafee funds in other ways.

We found a few states that use their Chafee funds in other ways. Kentucky formed a partnership with the state housing agency. The child welfare agency funds short-term rental vouchers and uses the housing authority’s existing expertise and infrastructure for managing a voucher program. The program functions like a short-term Section 8 voucher program. Delaware contracts out to two Transitional Living Programs. New Mexico also contracts with five community organizations to provide Transitional Living Programs using the Runaway and Homeless Youth services model, in which youth live either in group homes or their own apartments and are provided a range of services such as life skills training, financial literacy instruction, and education and employment services.

Child welfare agencies also draw on other Federal programs to support housing for youth who have aged out of care.

Each state receives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services an allocation for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) which cover the costs of attendance at post-secondary institutions, including room and board costs, for youth who age out of foster care. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Family Unification Program (FUP) requires public housing agencies to team with child welfare agencies to compete for housing choice vouchers that can be used for certain child welfare families and for youth ages 18 to21 who aged out of foster care. These vouchers are available only in some communities and, when used for this youth population, are good for 18 months. Some states use their Chafee funds in conjunction with the FUP program. For example, New Mexico uses Chafee funding to cover the security deposit.

Some states have developed programs of their own.

California’s Transitional Housing Program Plus (THP+) is a state-funded program available in nearly all counties. The program provides transitional housing and services for up to 24 months for youth ages 18 to 24. North Carolina and Texas have provided opportunities for youth formerly in foster care who continue with their schooling. North Carolina’s NC Reach covers the cost of attendance, including housing, for up to four years at North Carolina public institutions of higher education. Chafee funding may be used to cover summer months when the youth is not enrolled. Texas now requires state colleges and universities to assist or, if funds are available, to pay for housing during the summer and winter breaks for youth formerly in foster care. These institutions may also utilize existing dorm facilities to house these youth. Michigan covers the other end of the "needs" spectrum, youth who become homeless after leaving care, by contracting with Transitional Living Programs to allocate a specific number of slots for youth aging out of care. These efforts are funded primarily using state (rather than federal) funds and typically are limited to youth who were in foster care in the state providing the assistance.

To allocate limited resources, programs tend to be time-limited and/or available only to youth who meet certain eligibility criteria.

Since most Chafee housing support lasts only a short time, youth need a job or other support, such as ETVs or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), soon after aging out of foster care. Most states limit support to youth in school or working, with an emphasis on the youth being able to pay the full rent after the assistance ceases. This philosophy limits Chafee support primarily to youth who will most likely make a successful transition out of care and provides them the initial funding they need due to lack of savings. Under this philosophy, youth who are not in school or working will find it difficult to take advantage of this support. Youth generally seek other resources such as the Basic Center Program (temporary shelters) and the Transitional Living Programs provided as part of the Runaway and Homeless Youth system.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 may change the housing landscape for youth who turn 18 in foster care.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allows states to use federal funds to keep youth in foster care until age 21, if the youth meets certain conditions such as being in school or working. As more states adopt the provisions of the new law, much of the housing landscape will change for youth who turn 18 in foster care. Under this Act, youth who remain in care past age 18 will receive housing support partially covered by federal funds, which will potentially free up Chafee resources. Chafee funding has typically been supporting youth eligible to stay in care under this Act.

Independent Living Coordinators identified desirable features of a housing program.

Few Independent Living Coordinators could identify programs in their state that they would consider "model" or innovative. However, some discussed desirable features in a model housing program. Certain themes emerged, namely providing youth supportive services or case management as well as education, job training, and life skills; providing sustained housing; and having program flexibility and responsiveness to youths’ needs. Taken together, these themes characterize some (though not necessarily all) desirable features identified by state officials regularly serving the population of older youth in foster care. No single program we heard about contained all of these features.

State officials listed supportive services and case management as important elements of housing programs for this population. Officials mentioned supports around education, job training, and other life skills. In addition to supportive case management services, model programs might provide longer-term housing options. State officials felt it important to enable youth to sustain their housing after aging out of foster care. Independent Living Coordinators saw flexible use of funds and capacity to coordinate with other agencies as important. In particular, they cited flexibility to provide different types of housing depending on a youth’s needs and maturity as desirable. Officials also saw a program’s responsiveness to the social and emotional needs of older youth in foster care, through means such as mentoring programs, as important.

[Go to Contents]

Introduction

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), contracted with the Urban Institute to examine strategies in place to assist youth in foster care with housing after they have aged out of foster care. The study focuses on room and board provisions made available through the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP or "the Chafee program"), which since 1999 has given states the option to use up to 30 percent of federal Chafee program dollars on housing for eligible youth. We reviewed financial reports submitted by each state to the Administration for Children and Families to identify the 20 states that planned to spend the maximum allowable amount to provide housing support in 2010. We focus on these states because we were interested in the housing assistance models supported by states under the Chafee program, and reasoned that those states spending little of their funding for this purpose were unlikely to have model programs funded through this source. A complimentary study funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking out housing programs for this population funded through other means.

During the spring and summer of 2011, Urban Institute staff gathered published information from reports and websites and spoke directly with state administrators and staff (primarily state Independent Living (IL) Coordinators who lead programs and services for youth currently and formerly in foster care) about how they use Chafee program funds to support room and board for youth. This report focuses on the housing provisions and describes the different ways states that spend the maximum-allowed amount use those dollars. Readers should be aware that the report does not provide a comprehensive examination of all housing resources available to youth after aging out of care, even within the states covered in this study. Dworsky and Havlicek (2009) provide details of some other housing programs across many states.

Background

In 2010, nearly 28,000 youth left the foster care system to live on their own as legal adults (McCoy-Roth, DeVooght, and Fletcher 2011). Youth who have "aged out" of foster care often have unstable or precarious housing and many will experience periods of homelessness (Courtney, et al. 2007). Under the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 states may access federal support to assist youth with housing after they have left care until age 21. This "room and board" provision requires that youth have left foster care and are currently between ages 18 and 21. States can spend up to 30 percent of their Chafee program dollars on housing. Beyond those criteria, the law is fairly flexible. For instance, the statute does not define "room and board" and allows states to develop their own definition.

To date, little is known about how states define and implement the room and board provisions. Although the legislation requires states to submit a plan and indicate the proportion of the state’s funding that will go toward room and board, states do not systematically collect specific details about services, implementation, and other funding sources for housing. This report describes how some states use their allocation. Because we are interested in how states use Chafee room and board provisions when the funds represent a sizeable share of total Chafee spending, we selected for this study states that filed plans to use the maximum allowable amount on housing in fiscal year 2010. This report addresses three main questions for the states that planned to use approximately 30 percent of the Chafee allotment for housing: