County Offers Return on Social Service Investments (AP)

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The government would pay charitable organizations a small return on investments in very successful social programs under an innovative "pay for success" partnership announced recently in Ohio's largest county.

Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, is partnering with FrontLine Service, a homeless services provider, in the effort.

The Partnering for Family Success program aims to reconnect foster children from families that are homeless with their relatives in stable, affordable housing. The program will deliver 12- to 15-month treatment to 135 families over five years to reduce the length of stay in out-of-home foster care for these families' children.

Results will be rigorously tracked, with the county repaying up-front investments by several private funders if goals are met and adding a small return on investment if goals are exceeded.

"Homeless families with children in out-of-home foster care should have access to programs that allow them to reunite with their children and provide a stable housing environment to help children thrive," County Executive Ed FitzGerald said in a statement.

He said the program offers an innovative model for the county to support FrontLine's services, track outcomes, and drive resources toward better outcomes for children and their families. It also will improve accountability for government spending, FitzGerald said.

The program has received funding from The Reinvestment Fund, The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, and the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

For Cuyahoga County children placed in out-of-home foster care to be reunited with their families, their caregivers must be able to provide a safe and stable home environment. In many cases, caregivers who are homeless face challenges including domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness. Their children -- nearly two-thirds of them under 6 -- spend extended time in out-of-home foster care. This results in poor outcomes for the families and high costs for the county.

The new partnership program provides an intensive case management system known as "critical time intervention" and access to family-appropriate housing. The county said close monitoring will help families experiencing homelessness slowly reconnect to community support networks and settle successfully in newly attained housing.