Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Apply now for HUD Housing Funds for Youth Aging Out of Care

This press release from the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare is the best news that I have heard for a while!

Kudos for this organization for working with Congress to secure $20 million in new funding for the Family Unification Program. I had recently blogged about this very program, wondering why no funds had been issued recently.

HUD to Issue $20 Million in New Housing Resources for Child Welfare Families and Aging-out Youth

This fall, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will invite public housing authorities nationwide to apply for $20 million in new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers the Family Unification Program (FUP).

FUP provides homeless and precariously housed families involved with the child welfare system with affordable housing and supportive services in order to safely reunite them with their children. As of October 2000, youth age 18 or older who left foster care after the age of 16 are eligible for desperately-needed FUP vouchers as well.

How does FUP work?
HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP) is administered through local level partnerships between public housing authorities and public child welfare agencies. Public housing authorities administer the Section 8 vouchers to families and youth who have been certified as eligible for FUP by the child welfare agency. The child welfare agency assists clients in gathering the necessary Section 8 paperwork, finding housing, and provides aftercare services to help the household obtain and maintain safe, stable and permanent housing.

How does our community apply for new FUP vouchers?
As early as mid-September 2008, HUD will issue a notice of funding availability (NOFA) inviting public housing authorities (PHAs) to apply for up to 100 Section 8 vouchers for FUP. In order to apply for this funding, a PHA must have a signed memorandum of understanding with the local child welfare agency documenting that these systems will work in partnership to support FUP families and youth. Child welfare administrators interested in FUP should reach out to their counterpart at the public housing authority soon. Once HUD issues the NOFA, PHAs will only have thirty days to submit an application.

How can I get more information about FUP?
For more information about how to apply for and implement the Family Unification Program in your community please visit the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare at http://www.nchcw.org/

National Center for Housing and Child Welfare
6711 Queens Chapel Rd, University Park, MD 20782
Phone 301-699-0151 Toll Free 1-866-790-6766
info@nchcw.org http://www.nchcw.org/

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Aging Out of Foster Care in Connecticut

After a keynote address that I gave to an audience of youth from all over the nation at the 2008 NILA conference, highlighting some of the best practices to Change the Odds from across the nation...

... a foster care alumna named Krystal came up to me and said: "Hey, you left my state out!"

I spent time with her and the other people from her group and learned about all sorts of wonderful initiatives in Connecticut. Here are four of the many things that I learned...

1.) Education
Because Connecticut youth can stay in foster care until age 23, they can continue to receive educational support to receive their Masters degree. This, to me, is a powerful incentive to take a full course load and make good grades, in order to graduate college on time and then immediately enter graduate school.

It also gives foster care youth with mental health challenges and substance abuse histories some extra time to “find the right fit” at college.

2.) Housing
The regional offices work with vendors to provide youth with a vacuum, food allowance and start-up supplies.

3.) Vital Documents
The goal is for young people to know how to drive before aging out of foster care. The state pays half the cost of driver’s education classes. When the youth age out of care, they sign for themselves to get a drivers license.

It’s part of their case plan for youth to leave with:
- An original copy of their birth certificate and Social Security card
- A drivers license (to sign for selves immediately upon discharge)
- A copy of their immunization records

4.) Youth Advisory Boards
Connecticut has 13 regional offices, and 9 of these regions have youth advisory boards. They meet once per month. Then, they are all invited to the quarterly statewide meetings at the Commissioner's Office, where youth are able to have dialogue with the commissioner.

Lawsuits as change-makers?

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Connecticut, and charged that the state had failed to adequately protect abused and neglected children. The state’s child welfare system was put under outside supervision.

The state of Connecticut was required to “pay for and fund the costs for the establishment, implementation, compliance, maintenance and monitoring of all mandates in this consent decree" as well as all directives by the supervising panel.

In the same way that deaths and lawsuits are the primary way that foster care issues come to public attention, sometimes it takes mandates and a Consent Decree to propel a child welfare system towards reform. This is something that breaks my heart - but I cannot deny its reality.

My hope is that my state and many others can learn from Connecticut's reform efforts and dedicate our time and effort to creating similar programs and resources in our area.