Stoneleigh’s Senior Program Officer Marie Williams discusses the impact that housing insecurity can have on families’ involvement with the child welfare system and shares details on a new Philadelphia initiative that will expedite reunification for these families.
Imagine being a parent who, despite your best efforts, cannot afford safe and adequate housing. Imagine that because of low earning power, physical ailments or inadequacy of supplemental benefits, you are forced to live in substandard conditions. Maybe you don’t have adequate heat during winter and insufficient cooling in the summer. Or you may have housing that is fully up to code, but you cannot consistently pay for electricity or hot water on top of all your other living expenses.
If you were such a parent, without a safe housing alternative, your children could be removed from your care and placed in foster care. Or, were your children already in foster care, you might face lengthy delays in getting them back home. In the face of the national housing crisis with high housing costs, there is a growing problem of families having their children removed from their care or having reunification delayed in whole or partly because of an inability to maintain adequate and stable living arrangements. Not only does this practice fly in the face of good child welfare practice, which emphasizes the value of reunification and maintaining positive family engagement, it may cause much more harm than good.