Delivery of Care

The changing dynamics of family

The long-term crises in housing and homelessness are reshaping how agencies such as DCYF deliver services

Graph courtesy of DCYF

A graph produced by DCYF showing the amount of money spent last year on housing DCYF families from July 2022 through April 2023.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 5/29/23
The ongoing crisis with un-housed families in Rhode Island threatens to overwhelm the meager resources at DCYF.
Will the new DCYF director speak out about the need for more resources for her agency, challenging the McKee administration brain trust in public? What is the connection between childhood lead poisoning and decreased standardized testing scores in Rhode Island? What is the relationship between domestic violence and homelessness? Do the police in Johnston need to undergo immediate re-training regarding how they respond to potential domestic violence reports?
Years ago, while living in the small, side of the road town, Montague Center, a hard freeze followed by a torrential downpour resulted in the stream behind our street changing course, forming an oxbow, as the waters broke free of the curved river bank and created a new marsh, flooding a former hayfield. As the waters receded, the marsh became a meadow filled with blackberries, a refuge for migrating birds, including red-winged blackbirds, a family of whippoorwills, and bitterns. At nights in early June, the meadow turned into a web of magical lights from thousands of fireflies. New swimming holes emerged as the river found new paths through the meadows. The ability of the river to change course, to evolve into a new source of abundance, served as a potent reminder that change is possible, and that change can be filled with positive vibrations.

PROVIDENCE – The tenacious reporting skills of The Providence Journal’s Kathy Gregg have attempted to tear down the walls of obfuscation put up by Gov. Dan McKee and his administration concerning the salary being paid to Ashley Deckert, the new director of the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families, which Gregg labeled a “headscratcher” in a recent tweet. “What’s the point of trying to keep this reported $180K salary promise secret?” she asked.

The answer may be found in what Gregg has termed the situation regarding the financially strapped agency: “With budget decisions happening now behind-the-scenes at the RI State House, the social workers’ union draws attention to a murder in Vermont as evidence of the dangers social workers face dealing w/volatile population,” Gregg tweeted this past weekend. “What are they asking? More hires to start.”

Perhaps Gregg could request a face-to-face meeting with the current McKee brain trust, including Antonio Afonso, Jr., McKee’s chief of staff, and Joseph Almond, McKee’s deputy chief of staff, to discuss budgetary issues that are plaguing DCYF.

One of the persistent problems, it seems, with DCYF’s finances, are the ever-increasing costs related to finding shelter for the homeless families in Rhode Island.

As one source told ConvergenceRI, “We think DCYF is subsidizing hotels for approximately 84 families,” with reports from DCYF staff, according to the source, that some families “have been in hotels for up to two years without sufficient housing case management.”

Another source estimated that DCYF was spending as much as $80,000 per week, which annualized would amount to approximately $4.1 million.

ConvergenceRI reached out to DCYF to get a more accurate picture of DCY expenditures. Here are the responses from Damaris Teixeira, DCYF’s Public Information Officer.

‘DCYF works to support families and youth struggling with homelessness to ensure their safety and wellbeing if there are no other available resources or kin to assist them,” Teixeira said. “One way the Department does this is through five contract providers who operate our Family Care Community Partnerships [FCCPs] which are currently funding 50+ families in extended stay hotels.”

These families, Teixeira continued, are referred to the FCCPs by the Coordinated Entry System [CES] of the Homeless Support Systems Continuum of Care [CoC].

“While the Department’s assistance in providing the flex funds for hotels was intended to be a temporary option for a period of 1-2 weeks per family,” Teixeira said, “the current housing/resource capacity crisis has resulted in the families staying in hotels for significantly longer lengths of time.”

In addition, Teixeira explained, “the Department’s Division of Family Services is supporting 33 families in extended stay hotels. The median length of stay for families is eight months, with length of stays varying from two weeks to 23 months.”

In a table provided by Teixeira, it showed that from July 2022 to April 2023, DCYF has spent $1.55 million to assist these families. [See first graphic.]

[Editor’s Note: Observers say that while the expenses collated for last year are said to be $1.55 million, the dramatic increase in the homeless crisis in Rhode Island promises to drive the overall costs closer to the $4 million figure.]

DCYF families, Teixeira said, “continue to receive case management services from DCYF social case workers currently assigned to their cases to assist them with accessing services as well as case management services through the Coordinated Entry System [CES] who help families in finding more appropriate housing.

The view from the ground up
ConvergenceRI also received communication from one of the Family Care Community Partnerships managers, who offered a view of the current landscape.

Housing issues have always been a ‘small part of what we do’ as primary prevention for families to avoid getting involved with DCYF, police and hospitals,” the FCCP manager said. “Families may have needed a larger space, safer neighborhood or more affordable housing. Families stay with friends and relatives when they can.”

The manager explained: “This is referred to as being ‘doubled up in the housing world.’ People who are doubled up do not qualify to be on the emergency shelter list. When they are welcome and safe,” the manager continued, “the family can continue to function, get to work/school and be whole.”

“We used to be able to access shelter placement for families in need in a week at most; now we can go months without seeing a single family on the shelter list move into shelter,” the manager said.

The causes cited by the manager for the delays include: Property values have risen and with it, rents have increased between $400 and $600 a month. “Many property owners are looking to sell or renovate to increase rent,” the manager said. “We have had families looking for help who have had a variety of circumstances. Many are experiencing homelessness for the first time – they have been struggling for some time, then something else happens and they can't continue [because of loss of a job, injury, illness, domestic violence, separation/divorce, or a death in the family].”

The consequences
The manager talked about how prolonged homelessness has a profound impact on families, especially those with small children.

The negative impact of prolonged homelessness is profound on families, especially small children – including school, health care, socialization, and recreation. “Many times, in order to manage, families split up, with children staying with someone while the parents stay with someone else, or they sleep in a car,” the manager said.

Translated, the manager continued, “We have become the DCYF to family homelessness. Families are referred to us and we assess their resources and situation – which, many times, is that they have nowhere to go and no hopes of paying for lodging.”

On a weekend such as this one [Memorial Day], the manager continued, “Hotels are hard to come by. We have 10 families in hotels right at approximately $1,000 a week per family. All of this money does not move the family closer to stable housing. We need immediate emergency housing resources for families.”

The culprits of this disaster, the manager told ConvergencRI, ‘are a lack of planning in regards to housing need, housing planning and housing funding.”

Are you listening, Rhode Island?

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