Nation’s First County-Level Pay for Success Program Aims to Reconnect Foster Children with Caregivers in Stable, Affordable Housing

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Richard Luchette

Partnering for Family Success Program will measurably improve outcomes for children and families in Ohio through access to quality housing and services

CLEVELAND – The County of Cuyahoga, Ohio, encompassing the greater Cleveland area, is launching the nation’s first county-level Pay for Success (PFS) project in partnership with FrontLine Service, a comprehensive continuum of care service provider for homeless persons in Ohio. The Partnering for Family Success Program, the first PFS project in the combined areas of homelessness and child welfare, will deliver intensive 12-15 month treatment to 135 families over five years to reduce the length of stay in out-of-home foster care placement for children whose families are homeless. 

“Homeless families with children in out-of-home foster care should have access to programs that allow them to reunite with their children and provide a stable housing environment to help children thrive,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald. “The Partnering for Family Success Program offers an innovative model for Cuyahoga County to support FrontLine’s high-impact services, rigorously track outcomes, and drive resources toward better outcomes for children and their families, while also improving accountability for government spending.”  

In Cuyahoga County, for children placed in out-of-home foster care to be reunited with their families, their caregivers must be able to provide a safe and stable home environment. Unfortunately, many of these caregivers are homeless and struggle with domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness. As a result, their children—nearly two-thirds of whom are under the age of six—are profoundly impacted by the loss of consistent caregivers and spend significantly longer lengths of stay in out-of-home foster care. This extended time in the child welfare system results in poor outcomes for the County’s most vulnerable families and high costs to the County. 

For families in the Partnering for Family Success Program, FrontLine and its partners will provide an intensive case management system known as ‘Critical Time Intervention’ (CTI) as well as access to family appropriate housing. CTI helps fragile families that are experiencing homelessness to slowly reconnect to community support networks and settle successfully in newly attained housing. CTI provides intensive services upfront, tapering over time as the caregiver regains the skills and support to achieve their goals, including family reunification. CTI will be paired with age-appropriate, evidence-based trauma services that will strengthen healthy and secure caregiver-child relationships. 

“This project will allow FrontLine and its partners to receive greater and more reliable upfront funding so we can focus on delivering our proven model of services to more families in need,” said Susan Neth, Executive Director of FrontLine Service. “Through a truly collaborative process, we have worked with the County and other partners to build an integrated program that not only helps children and their families, but also tracks outcomes to demonstrate meaningful impact.”  

PFS is an innovative funding model that drives government resources toward social programs that prove effective at providing results to the people who need them most. PFS expands available, upfront funding for nonprofit service providers and tracks the effectiveness of programs over time to ensure funding is directed toward programs that succeed in measurably improving the lives of people most in need. PFS enables governments to draw in greater resources to tackle social problems by tapping private investments for the up-front costs of the programs. 

The Program has received funding from The Reinvestment Fund, The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, and Nonprofit Finance Fund. 

The organizations providing funding for this program are all committed to improving outcomes for children and families in Cuyahoga County. The Partnering for Family Success program gives them an opportunity to invest in their communities by supporting high-quality programs that improve the lives of families in Ohio, with the ultimate goal of a receiving both a financial and social return. The original investment in the program is only repaid if pre-determined outcomes are met. If, and only if, the program exceeds the target outcomes, the government pays a small return on the investment.