Federal financing of child welfare is an open-ended entitlement for out-of-home placements whereas funding for prevention (keeping families together) is much more limited and capped. Thus, federal funding is skewed toward placement services with a ratio of 6:1 or perhaps even higher for funding of placement vs. prevention services.
This month ground-breaking legislation has been introduced in Congress to allow foster care funds (Title IV-E) to be used for prevention services. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (H.R. 5456/S. 3065) is a jointly developed House/Senate bill that is now moving forward in the House of Representatives.
Those eligible for the prevention services include children who are at imminent risk of out-of-home placement, children experiencing disrupted guardianships or adoption, and young people in foster care who are pregnant or parenting. There is no income eligibility requirement.
Criteria for services eligible for federal reimbursement include:
- substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment services provided by a qualified clinician
- in-home parent skill-based programs including individual and family counseling
- services and programs that are trauma-informed
- services and programs that are evidence-based (based on criteria from the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare http://www.cebc4cw.org)
- services provided for a maximum of 12 months
The Department of Health and Human Services will provide technical assistance and best practices to states on prevention programs. In addition, the department will establish a clearinghouse of promising, supported, and well-supported practices based on research findings. States must include a well-designed research evaluation for any practice used unless they receive a waiver based on compelling evidence of effectiveness.
The legislation also extends the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (Title IV-B, Subpart 2) for another 5 years (FY 2017-FY 2021). Mandatory funding of $345 million is provided each year plus whatever discretionary funding Congress allocates. There are two changes to the PSSF program that currently funds four types of services: family support, preservation, reunification, and adoption services:
- the definition of “family support services” is amended to include community services that are designed to support and retain foster families
- eliminates the current 15-month time limit for reunification services
To view the bill, visit http://waysandmeans.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BUCHAN_031_xml2.pdf
A detailed summary of the bill is available here: http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/welfare/assets/family-first-prevention.pdf
If your organization is interested in signing on to support the legislation, please contact: Stefanie Sprow, Children’s Defense Fund, firstname.lastname@example.org
Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director