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Roundtable 7 Discussion Summary
Family Obligations, Terminations, and Contracts of Participation

(Teleconference Roundtable held September 17, 2002)

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Teleconference Participants

  • Alaska Housing Finance Corporation
  • Akron Metropolitan HA (OH)
  • Denver (CO)
  • Fresno (CA) Houston HA (TX)
  • Hamilton HA (OH)
  • James City County (VA)
  • Lakeland HA (FL)
  • Los Angeles City HA (CA)
  • Monmouth County HA (NJ)
  • New Hampshire Housing & Finance Agency
  • Newark HA (NJ)
  • Snohomish (WA)
  • Umatilla HA (OR)

Discussion Summary

What are some advantages to having WtW-specific family obligations?

  • Family obligations effectively communicate the agency's expectations to the voucher families.

  • Family obligations also help agencies determine each family's case management needs by clearly stating and prioritizing the areas on which each family must focus in order to become self-sufficient.

  • Family obligations give partner agencies the opportunity to provide input into every WtW families' responsibilities upon receiving the WtW voucher.

  • Family obligations require the agency to closely monitor family performance.

What are some disadvantages to having WtW-specific family obligations?

  • Tracking and monitoring family adherence to family obligations can be a big administrative burden for some agencies.

  • Family obligations may make lease-up of WtW vouchers more difficult than the lease-up of regular vouchers because some voucher applicants would rather not abide by family obligations.

  • The WtW family's abililty to succeed in meeting family obligations is more directly tied to the availability of jobs and the economy.

What kinds of case management, services, and incentives should agencies provide to families and in support of program goals?

  • Some agencies are referring clients to services in the community, such as "Dress for Success" or local community college classes. PHAs are also offering services directly from their agency, such as help with rental deposits, technology training, and workshops building self-sufficiency skills.

  • All Roundtable Participants agree that agencies must have incentives in order to have a successful program.

How do PHAs support families to prevent termination?

  • Some agencies have developed a series of letters for families that are sent for various reasons, such as to encourage compliance with family obligations or warning that obligations are currently not being met. If family obligations are still not met after these letters are sent, case managers then meet directly with the families to better understand why the obligations are not being met.

  • One agency allows clients at least 3 months to find employment. If clients show that they are making "good faith efforts" to find employment, this three-month time period may even be extended.

  • Another agency only accepts WtW families who have been referred directly from one of the agency's service partners. The service partners are then responsible for all the case management for that client. If obligations are not met, the partner agency then recommends that the PHA terminate the family. If this happens, the agency then holds a hearing to determine if termination is warranted.

How are PHAs handling instances in which families fail to meet WtW family obligations?

  • One agency with work requirements hasn't yet terminated any families; participants have been given three years to gradually meet the work requirements. (Each year, requirements gradually grow stricter.) This year, the third year of their WtW program, will be the first year that the head/co-head/spouse of a WtW family will need to meet the work requirements, or face termination.

  • Another agency has already terminated many families. This agency's family obligations are clearly stated, and if a family is not adhering to them then it is terminated. However, the agency is careful to look at each situation individually and to try to understand each family's circumstances. Exceptions have been made; some families not adhering to their obligations have not been terminated.

What should PHAs wishing to create or modify family obligations consider prior to making such a decision?

  • Although requirements/obligations cannot be enforced retroactively for families already enrolled in the WtW program, developing a work requirement policy or Contract of Participation can help a PHA enforce employment and other program goals going-forward. Once the PHA's admin plan has been updated to reflect the work requirements, all new families are subject to these requirements.

  • Adding family obligations to an agency's WtW program may lead to more portability cases. Sometimes families want to port to a nearby WtW program that doesn't require family obligations. One agency experiencing this problem has since modified their contract to include a clause that does not allow WtW participants to port. Another agency's contract states that WtW clients agree not to move out of the state for 3 years, unless a work opportunity requires the move.

For more information on this topic, view "Challenge 4" in our summary for Roundtable 3: FSS and Case Management of WtW Families.

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