Kemp Administration Mismanagement of Federal Housing Program Leaves Former Foster Children Vulnerable to Homelessness 

June 18, 2024

Under Kemp, Georgia has a “child welfare system that has paid little attention to the housing needs of families and children.”

In new reporting from WABE, the Kemp administration’s mismanagement of the federally-funded Foster Youth to Independence program has left many former foster children vulnerable to homelessness once they turn 18. 

In Georgia, approximately 500 former foster children each year are eligible for federal housing assistance under the 2019 program; in the five years since the program launched, Kemp’s administration has facilitated only eight total applications.    

“Governor Kemp allowing young Georgians to graduate out of the foster system and into preventable homelessness isn’t just a policy failure, it’s a moral failure,” said DPG Executive Director Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye. “The federal government has offered to help house, feed, and cover the health care costs for children, and yet the Kemp administration continues to leave the most vulnerable Georgians suffering on their own.”

Eight applications in five years ranks Georgia 45th in the country, only ahead of significantly smaller states. According to WABE and ProPublica, under Governor Kemp, Georgia is running a “child welfare system that has paid little attention to the housing needs of families and children.” 

Despite citing “inadequate housing” as the reason for removing 20% of children from their parents, previous reporting from WABE showed the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services has deprioritized housing assistance for families in recent years.

Read the story from WABE below:

WABE: Former foster youth are eligible for federal housing aid. Georgia isn’t helping them get it.
Stephannie Stokes; 6/11/2024


  • In Georgia’s foster care system, about 500 young people become adults each year and, sometime between age 18 and 21, they’ll have to make it on their own. Without the safety net the foster care system provides, they’re especially vulnerable to becoming homeless.

  • That risk is why, in 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created the Foster Youth to Independence program, which offers between three and five years of rental assistance to young adults who have moved on from foster care. The program is the only long-term federal housing assistance targeted at former foster youth as they navigate adulthood.

  • But there’s a catch: The money comes not directly through the federal government, but through the states, which have to apply for and coordinate the funding. WABE and ProPublica found Georgia has barely done that.

  • Through the program, each local housing authority can request up to 25 FYI vouchers each year. In Georgia, where 20 housing authorities are eligible, that means as many as 500 vouchers could be available, bringing in as much as $5 million in rent money from the federal government each year.

  • According to HUD’s latest data from last fall, housing authorities in Georgia have received only eight FYI vouchers total since the program began. By contrast, a third of states have each received at least 75 of these vouchers in the program’s first several years. Texas, Florida and Washington have received more than 400 each; California has upwards of 800, helping hundreds of young people afford stable housing. Only five states, all significantly smaller than Georgia, had requested fewer vouchers.

  • The failure to tap federal vouchers for foster youth in Georgia is a symptom of a child welfare system that has paid little attention to the housing needs of families and children, WABE and ProPublica have found. Previous reporting showed how the state Division of Family and Children Services had put few of its resources toward housing assistance for families in recent years, even as it cited “inadequate housing” among its reasons for removing 20% of children from their parents.

  • But in Georgia, staffers at roughly half of the state’s eligible housing authorities said they hadn’t heard from the state agency about the vouchers in the program’s first five years. A couple of housing authorities said they struggled to get in touch with DFCS to complete the application, while others said they were not eligible to apply because the agency had not helped them to use up other housing funds they needed to distribute before they could tap the program.

  • “Imagine being an entity that goes in and removes a kid from their house,” [National Center for Housing and Child Welfare Co-Founder and Executive Director Ruth] White said, “and then not being the agency that’s chomping at the bit to make sure you get a housing voucher for that young person.”

  • Study after study has shown the high risk of homelessness among young adults who age out of foster care. A 2021 national survey of 21-year-olds who had been in foster care across the country showed that a little more than a quarter of them had been homeless during the previous two years. The same survey also showed similar numbers in Georgia.

  • But unlike other voucher programs, FYI requires significant buy-in from child welfare agencies, which must identify eligible young adults and also offer them other support, like job training and financial counseling. That’s why housing authorities and child welfare agencies have to work together to take advantage of the program.

  • That didn’t happen in Georgia. In Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta, the chief operations officer of the Marietta Housing Authority tried to pursue vouchers in 2020. Mark Wright reached out to the local DCFS director, but he didn’t get the signed agreement from the agency that the program requires. After that, Wright said, “I kind of felt like we were not going to get the kind of buy-in from other agencies to make it successful.” He gave up.


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