By using the Pay for Success financing model, the Partnering for Family Success program is designed to quickly and safely reunite homeless families with children in foster care by offering them stable housing and comprehensive wraparound services. The costs saved then can be applied to better serve needy families in the long run. The process evaluation focused on answering” “How is the PFS program functioning in its first two years, and what key elements lead to program success?”
A mixed methods approach was used to understand the program’s processes and potential impacts on the 60 program participants recruited from the county’s homeless system. Quantitative data were analyzed from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services (CJFS), and Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to describe clients’ demographics, disability status, homeless history, receipt of public assistance, and involvement in child welfare services. Also, data on case management from client progress notes provided information on service “dosage” including type, frequency, timing, and length of contacts.
Qualitative data included participant observation at collaborative team meetings, document analyses of meeting minutes, analysis of case management progress notes, and semi-structured interviews with staff (child welfare workers and PFS program workers), and provided first-person and team perspectives on the on-the-ground workings of the program. Themes extracted from these data help to identify the mechanisms by which the PFS model is delivered, its strengths, and ways in which the program is having an impact on the families. Use of peer debriefing, member checks to ensure the data reflected the experiences of the staff involved in the program, and triangulation from the multiple data sources ensured qualitative data rigor.
The quantitative data indicated the comparability of the treatment and control group before program entry. It also indicates that the program is helping to stabilize families—90% of treatment group families have moved from homelessness into stable housing and no treatment group families have returned to homelessness. Analytic integration of the qualitative and quantitative data indicates that housing alone is not enough to stabilize families. PFS workers provide assistance to meet clients’ concrete needs while also acting as advocates at the system level with other professionals are also proving to be essential elements of the program. Both qualitative and quantitative data indicate that PFS staff help move clients progressively from being very involved on a nearly daily basis to working with clients toward greater self-sufficiency and less involvement over time.
Conclusions and Implications:
Though the process evaluation reports on only the early stages of a five-year study, the initial findings indicate that the PFS treatment group is becoming more quickly stabilized than the control group through housing and comprehensive services. The data have strong implications with regard to better understanding the mechanisms by which collaboration between child welfare workers and housing assistance providers lead to positive outcomes for families and how agencies and systems can work together to provide outstanding services for families and children while simultaneously reducing program costs.