Boulder County, Colo. – In recognition of its effective, integrated approach to human services delivery, where children and families are offered a full continuum of early and preventative support services that increase their safety and their chances to be self-sufficient, the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services was recently awarded 50 Family Unification Program Housing Choice Vouchers by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Only 150 vouchers were awarded in Colorado and less than 2,000 nationwide.

By providing access to stable housing and supportive services, the Family Unification Program enables Boulder County to reunite children in foster care with their parents or to prevent children from entering the foster care system. Research consistently shows that children who are able to safely stay with their families have much better long-term outcomes than children who are removed from their homes.

FUP vouchers will be available for families whose inadequate housing is the primary factor in the separation or near separation from their children. Families and youths are permitted to rent housing from private landlords and generally pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent and utilities. County staff will refer eligible clients to the voucher program.

“We feel strongly that a lack of affordable housing is not a valid reason to separate children from their families,” said Frank Alexander, Director of the county’s Department of Housing and Human Services. “With these vouchers, we can ensure that families have a safe and affordable place to live and thereby remove one obstacle from parents who want to take care of their children but do not have the financial resources to do so. Providing short-term supportive services to at-risk families on the front end can make the difference for kids and families over the long term.”

According to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, it costs the federal government approximately $56,892 annually per family to place children into foster care. Yet the cost to provide housing and supportive services to one family averages less than $14,000 annually. Through this investment in FUP to reunify families who are separated due to a lack of affordable housing options, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD, will reunite nearly 3,500 children with their parents, thus saving $74 million in annual foster care expenditures.

Cost savings are also considerable for young people aging out of foster care. The average annual cost of a FUP voucher for young adults is $5,600 – a 10th of the estimated costs associated with undesirable outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, and residential treatment.

“Boulder County is proud to be leading the way in providing a highly integrated, locally delivered housing and human services system and appreciates HUD’s recognition of this innovative approach to service delivery,” Alexander said.