Reducing Homelessness Among Youth with Child Welfare Involvement: Phase II Implementation Experiences in a Multi-Phase Grant

Publication Date: October 15, 2020
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Research Questions

  1. Who are the YARH-2 grantees, who did they partner with, and what are the components of the their comprehensive service models?
  2. What did grantees do to prepare for and promote implementation of the comprehensive service models and what supported and hindered their implementation efforts?
  3. How are youth benefiting from the comprehensive service models and how are the comprehensive service models resulting in changes in how youth receive services within the child welfare system?

To build the evidence base of interventions to prevent homelessness among youth in foster care or young adults who were formerly in foster care, the Children’s Bureau (CB) developed the “Building Capacity to Evaluate Interventions for Youth/Young Adults with Child Welfare Involvement At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH)” grant program. YARH is a multiphase competitive grant program that aims to support the development and evaluation of comprehensive service models to meet the needs of youth who have experienced foster care and are at risk of homelessness.

In the first phase of YARH (YARH-1), starting in September 2013, CB awarded planning grants to 18 entities to form partnerships with local child welfare entities and define a comprehensive service model (model). In the second phase of YARH (YARH-2), starting in September 2015, CB awarded implementation grants to six entities from YARH-1 to (1) implement and refine the model developed in YARH-1; (2) conduct rapid-cycle testing of critical model components; (3) conduct formative evaluation of the model to determine whether the model can achieve expected outcomes; and (4) prepare for full implementation and a summative evaluation of the model in a third phase (YARH-3).


The process study is intended to inform future efforts to implement interventions designed to prevent homelessness among youth and young adults with child welfare involvement. We provide stakeholders interested in youth homelessness and child welfare issues with findings about the services and supports that grantees implemented as part of their models. We report findings on the challenges that the YARH-2 grantees and their partners faced in their efforts to implement their models. We provide findings about strategies the grantees used that supported implementation of their models, as well as other factors that facilitated implementation.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Leaders facilitated implementing the models by (1) having in-depth knowledge of the model services and supports; (2) meeting with partners regularly to promote support for the model; and (3) engaging stakeholders at all levels, including leadership at state or county child welfare agencies, service providers, and referring entities.
  • Grantees that established a committed coalition of partners during the YARH-1 planning phase began enrolling and delivering services to youth more quickly and consistently compared to grantees that had not successfully engaged partners prior to implementation.
  • The grant activities were helpful for engaging partners and establishing a shared vision of the model, identifying and resolving implementation challenges, and facilitating communication during implementation.
  • In all models, youth were assigned a youth practitioner who supported them until they graduated from the model. These youth practitioners used various methods to support youth to address past trauma, build life skills and confidence to self-advocate, engage natural and formal supports, and access community resources.
  • Engaging youth was a significant challenge because youth’s participation in services was voluntary. However, youth practitioners’ personal attributes, such as patience, flexibility, and commitment, facilitated youth’s engagement. Having access to resources to provide youth with meals and gift cards contributed to engaging them in new services.
  • Perceived benefits of the models included (1) a focus on youth-centered approaches and establishing a trusting relationship between the youth practitioner and the youth, (2) youth feeling supported by their youth practitioner, and (3) stronger relationships among entities in child welfare systems.


The process study findings are based on reviews of grant-related documents, notes from evaluation technical assistance meetings, and transcripts from interviews conducted during two-day site visits with each grantee made between April and June 2019. The data were collected throughout the implementation grant period until we completed interviews in June 2019.

We drew from two implementation science frameworks to develop a conceptual framework that guided analysis: (1) The National Implementation Research Network Active Implementation Frameworks and (2) The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. We used the conceptual framework to develop a codebook to organize all data for analysis. We then analyzed data by construct to identify descriptions of the comprehensive service models, as well as barriers and facilitators to implementation. We assessed and reported themes that emerged within and across grantees.


  • Prepare leaders for success
  • Engage stakeholders in planning
  • Document an implementation blueprint
  • Establish continuous quality improvement (CQI) processes
  • Hire youth practitioners who are committed to engaging youth
  • To minimize the effect of staff turnover, educate partners often
  • To encourage initial youth engagement in services, focus on the youth’s individual and immediate needs and support them in developing long-term planning skills
  • To encourage youth engagement in new services, have access to resources to provide youth with meals and gift cards
  • To encourage ongoing youth engagement in services, anticipate challenges to youth’s engagement and validate their frustrations


Keith, R.K., N. Islam, R. Sarwar, and M.C. Bradley. “Reducing Homelessness Among Youth with Child Welfare Involvement: Phase II Implementation Experiences in a Multi-Phase Grant.” OPRE report 2020-129. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2020.


Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation
Youth At Risk of Homelessness, acronym used to represent the initiative funded by ACF to support communities in addressing homelessness among youth and young adults with child welfare involvement
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