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Research Shows Potential of Providing Housing Supports to Families Who Are Involved with Child Protective Services

Berkeley, May 7th, 2024 — The nonpartisan California Policy Lab released a new report and accompanying policy brief today focused on the Bringing Families Home (BFH) program. BFH supports families in the child welfare system who are either experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity by providing financial assistance and housing-related wraparound supportive services. These services are determined and provided by counties and tribal programs and can include rental assistance, housing navigation, case management, security deposits, utility payments, moving costs, interim shelter assistance, legal services, and credit repair. The program was designed with the goal that improved housing security for program participants would reduce the need to place children into foster care (out-of-home placement) and could increase family reunification (return to parents) for children that were already in an out-of-home placement.

“Families in the child welfare system often face housing instability or barriers to secure housing, so by addressing these challenges, the BFH program can improve both housing and child welfare outcomes,” explains co-author Krista Ruffini, assistant professor of public policy at Georgetown University and a California Policy Lab faculty affiliate.

BFH was piloted in 12 counties across the state during a 3-year period that started in 2017. The new report examines outcomes for the first two years of that pilot. Most California counties now participate in the BFH program, and 24 new tribal programs began offering the program between 2023 and 2024.

Key findings:

  • Enrollment in BFH reduced the use of emergency shelter and transitional housing by half and doubled the use of rapid re-housing services in the 6 months following program entry.
  • BFH children who were in foster care and receiving Family Reunification services were 68% more likely to reunify with their families at the 180-day mark than non-BFH families.
  • More BFH families that were initially receiving in-home family maintenance services were either still receiving family maintenance or were in foster care receiving family reunification services at the 180-day mark than non-BFH families.
  • Slightly more than half of BFH families (52%) that exited the program by the end of the program’s second year left to a permanent housing arrangement and only 3% reported exiting to homelessness.

Additional background on Bringing Families Home
The BFH Program was established in 2016 under Assembly Bill 1603. It is funded by the California Department of Social Services and administered by counties and tribal programs. The program aims to reduce the number of families in the child welfare system who are either experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity by providing various forms of housing assistance under a Housing First model. The evaluation compares housing and child welfare outcomes for families participating in BFH in its first two years relative to similar families involved with the child welfare system who did not receive BFH services.

There are several types of child welfare cases; BFH primarily served families with either a Family Reunification or Family Maintenance case:

Family Reunification (FR) corresponds to court-ordered, out-of-home placement services and activities provided to children in a foster care placement with the goal of reunifying the child with their family. While the child is not in the home, families receive services aimed at reducing the risk of future maltreatment, such as referrals to court-ordered services and visitations between children and their parent(s)/guardian(s). FR cases are those in which the child cannot safely remain at home and tend to follow more severe instances of child maltreatment than Family Maintenance cases.

Family Maintenance (FM) corresponds to voluntary or involuntary services and activities designed to provide in-home protective services. In FM cases, children remain with their families – the goal is to prevent separation while improving children’s current and future safety. FM services may include parental education, child care, substance use or mental health counseling, or crisis care services.


The California Policy Lab generates research insights for government impact. Through hands-on partnerships with government agencies, CPL performs rigorous research across issue silos and builds the data infrastructure necessary to improve programs and policies that millions of Californians rely on every day.

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