Cuyahoga County launches PFS pilot, introduces legislation for first County-level PFS program

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced that he will submit legislation to establish the nation’s first county-level Pay for Success program. County Councilman Dale Miller, District 2, will co-sponsor the legislation. The program has the potential to transform the way the County provides services for families who are both homeless and have children in foster care. The Pay for Success model will utilize private funding to pay for the program and only spend County taxpayer dollars to repay funders if the program is proven to be successful.

"With our state facing so many urgent challenges today, it’s especially important that we ensure constituents are getting the best, most effective services possible,” said FitzGerald. “Cuyahoga County’s Pay for Success effort will allow us to integrate child welfare and homeless systems to better serve vulnerable families and implement new solutions with no risk to the taxpayers. This is the kind of smart, efficient model that every level of government should strive towards."

A pilot for Cuyahoga County’s Pay for Success program has been made possible through a $780,000 grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF). The philanthropic grant, which will not be repaid, will support FrontLine Service, Inc., a Cleveland-based social service provider that contracts with Cuyahoga County for homeless, crisis and trauma services. During the pilot, FrontLine will serve 33 mothers who have experienced homelessness and have at least one child placed in foster care.

"We are pleased to support Cuyahoga County in the nation’s first county-based Pay for Success initiative. This model has the potential to transform the way local and state governments operate by giving them an opportunity to pilot promising programs, rigorously evaluate the results and only pay for those programs that are proven to make a difference,” LJAF Vice President of Public Accountability Josh McGee explained."

The 33 women, who have resided in women’s homeless or domestic violence shelters, will receive assistance to acquire housing and regain custody of their children. FrontLine’s Pay for Success goal is to reduce the time that homeless children spend in foster care by working in partnership with Division of Children and Family Service case workers, finding the family a stable housing environment, treating family trauma and preserving family bonds. Susan Neth, Chief Executive Officer at FrontLine Service, explained,"We’re not an appointment-based organization. Our case managers for the Pay for Success project won’t be sitting in an office, they will be active participants in these families’ lives: cooking meals, riding buses, advocating with landlords and doing whatever it takes to help them stabilize in new housing and thrive. And we know from experience that you can't focus on critical family issues such as past trauma, substance abuse, and mental illness until you know where you are going to sleep at night.”

Funders will be repaid only after it is verified that the program successfully provided benefits for the families it served. As the independent evaluator of the program, the Center on Urban Poverty & Community Development at Case Western Reserve University will measure Frontline’s success in reducing the number of days children spend in foster care.

"Cuyahoga County’s Pay for Success Initiative provides state of the art services for homeless families, savings though prevention, cutting-edge finance, multi-sector collaboration, and rigorous scientific research all in one package. This initiative would make Cuyahoga County a national leader in human services innovation,” said County Councilman Dale Miller, Chairperson of the County Council’s Finance & Budgeting Committee and co-sponsor of the “Pay for Success” legislation.

In funding the program’s pilot period, LJAF joins several local partners, including The George Gund Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc., in providing critical support to this initiative, which began over two years ago.

Read more on the County's website here.


Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald introduces plan to use new fundraising model to pay for social services - The Cleveland Plain Dealer