Applying a Housing Lens in Early Childhood Service Provision

Decades of research reveal a relationship between housing and child development. The earlier and longer a child experiences homelessness and related adversities, the greater the toll on his or her development and the risk of stress-related chronic disease later in life. This suggests a need for interventions both to prevent a housing crisis and to intervene promptly and effectively when it occurs.

Dr. Anne Farrell and colleagues developed the original Quick Risks and Assets for Family Triage (Q-RAFT) as an abbreviated version of the Risk and Assets for Family Triage (RAFT), within a federal demonstration project. The RAFT measures family assets along with barriers to child/family well-being and self-sufficiency. The RAFT was shortened to the QRAFT to assist The Connection, Inc. (TCI) and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (the state child welfare agency, DCF) in their efforts to provide tailored supportive housing services (SH) to child welfare-involved families.

What we did

We collaborated with TCI and Action for Bridgeport Community Development, Inc. (ABCD) to adapt and pilot the Q-RAFT for use in early childhood care and education settings. The resulting instrument, the QRAFT-EC, included demographic variables, a housing voucher eligibility calculation, 10 scored items (3 housing-related and 7 related to family well-being), and a referrals section. Following a training on the tool, family case workers at 14 sites in the Early Learning Division at ABCD completed the tool with 922 families. The referral section of the instrument utilized an algorithm to immediately indicate whether a family should be referred to a specific resource. Throughout the data collection period, we shared weekly summary data reports with ABCD staff.

In order to determine the utility of the QRAFT-EC as a tool to apply a housing lens in an early childhood service setting, the Chapin Hall team conducted two focus groups with family workers and an informal interview with the Director of the ABCD Early Learning Division and the Senior Coordinator of Site Management.

What we found

We analyzed the QRAFT-EC data using descriptive statistics and informal comparisons by risk/asset levels and found:

  • 5% of families had a significant or severe score on any of the three housing factors (versus 9.1% of clients in the Connecticut SH demonstration’s child welfare population).
  • Three of the 14 ABCD sites accounted for 57% of families with significant or severe housing needs.
  • Families who met the threshold for significant housing risks consistently scored higher in the non-housing dimensions of the QRAFT-EC.

In our focus groups and interviews, family case workers reported that the QRAFT-EC was easy to use and valuable for reflecting on their engagement with families and making indicated referrals.

What it means

A relatively small proportion of families in this sample demonstrated significant or severe housing instability or homelessness. However, given the evidence on the impact of housing instability and related family hardships on child development, the need for intervention is clear. The QRAFT-EC makes it easy for early childhood service providers to screen for housing instability and provide referrals or resources to prevent or address family homelessness.

Technical Report QRAFT-EC