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Foster family unification and housing

During the month of May, the National Children’s Bureau sheds light on the challenges many families face as their children interact with the foster care system. Through Foster Care Awareness Month, people and organizations around the country join them in celebrating the successes of the foster care process and raise awareness for the areas of the system that need improvement. 

In the state of Tennessee in 2021, 8,774 children were in foster care – a more than 25% increase over the last decade. The goal for each of these children is to safely reunite them with their parents, but there are a lot of things that have to fall into place for unification to happen. One of the largest hurdles for parents to overcome is obtaining reliable housing. WIth rental rates in Memphis rising exponentially, it is more challenging now than ever for families to meet the housing requirements that would allow them to bring their children home again. 

Why is family unification important?

The Administration for Children and Families stresses the importance of relational permanency for children. Really, what they found is that kids need to stay connected with people who know and love them well. When children enter the foster care system, many are fortunate to stay with kin – blood relatives, relatives by marriage or family acquaintances that are so closely connected that they’re considered family. But some are placed in the homes of generous foster families. While these homes can produce meaningful relationships, the initial placement can be jarring for children. No matter the placement, there is always a chance that a child can be moved again, which keeps them from building trust and relationships that they need as they’re growing up. 

Working toward unification is the ultimate way to create relational permanence. When a child’s parents are well and in a safe mental, emotional and physical space, there is no one better equipped to care for a child. Reuniting children and their parents is critically important for a child’s development and future success. 

How is MHA helping?

As we noted before, maintaining safe, decent housing is one of the requirements many parents must meet before they can be reunited with their children. Lack of stable housing is also one of the contributing factors that leads to children being placed in foster care in the first place. But rental prices in Memphis are skyrocketing, making it increasingly challenging for people to find the unit they need to bring or keep their children home. This is why Memphis Housing Authority partners with the Department of Child Services to provide priority Housing Choice Voucher Program vouchers to eligible parents seeking family unification. 

The Family Unification Program is a national initiative managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It allows organizations like MHA to provide immediate assistance to families in the process of unification or at risk of losing their children because of housing-related challenges. In Memphis, we have more than 70 vouchers available to help families stay together. 

If you or someone you know needs housing assistance to maintain or regain custody of their children, connect with the HCVP team.