Helping Homeless Children in Minnesota Through Supportive Housing

The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) at CEHD brings the University of Minnesota together with county, tribal, state and community social services to improve the lives of children and families involved with public child welfare. CASCW recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and over the last two decades it has provided research and professional education to improve the quality of public child welfare services.

Minnesota-Linking Information for Kids (Minn-LInK)

Home to the extensive Minn-LInK Project, CASCW offers the opportunity for researchers to access statewide, secondary administrative data from multiple agencies. One of the longest running projects of the entire college, data is provided by:

  • MN Department of Education: demographic variables, graduation rates, attendance, etc.
  • MN Department of Human Services: child protection maltreatment data investigation information, and placement information
  • MN Department of Health: data available via request

Minn-LInK helps answer questions about the impact of policies, programs and practice on the well-being of children in Minnesota. It’s a unique resource that lets us share what’s going on with kids and families in Minnesota, and then findings can be used to help child welfare professionals.

How Supportive Housing can Help Homeless Children’s Well-being:
Insights from Minn-LInK data

The homelessness population in the U.S. is changing to include a large proportion of children. And kids who are homeless also experience many negative encounters. In school for instance, homeless children are absent more frequently and tend not to do as well academically. Outside of school, because of dangerous living environments and traumatic family experiences, their families are more likely to be involved with child welfare authorities.

What is supportive housing?
Supportive housing programs focus on homeless families with significant barriers to housing stability (such as health problems, disabilities, history of abuse and violence) and long histories of homelessness. In the supportive housing model, families are offered social services along with housing—such as job and life skills training, alcohol and drug abuse programs and case management.

A recent study based on Minn-LInk data investigated the impact of family supportive housing services on homeless children’s well-being, including academic performance and child protection involvement.

For this study, Minn-LInk data from the MN Departments of Education and Human Services of children in grades 3-6 was matched to data from Hearth Connection (a St. Paul-based nonprofit that offers supportive housing to people experiencing long-term homelessness.) Children receiving supportive housing services have: declining levels of child protection involvement over time, fewer school transfers, are less involved in reported cases of abuse or neglect and are less likely over time to be removed from their parents’ care than homeless children. The study suggests that supportive housing services are beneficial in reducing children’s need for public child welfare intervention.

In this recent MinnPost article, Kristine N. Piescher, co-author of the study with Saahoon Hong summarized, “There are positive trends in outcomes across most of the measures for kids in supportive housing.” She also urges that “these children live in families dealing with ‘severe challenges’ such as mental illness, disabilities and long-term homelessness and ‘any positive movement’ is important.”

Learn more about Minn-LInK Publications and its unique evaluation of the effectiveness of supportive housing services on children.

–Traci LaLiberte
Executive Director, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Traci LaLiberte

About the Author

Traci LaLiberte, Ph.D.

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