Following nearly two years of consideration, the Family First Prevention Services Act was passed by Congress as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892).
Starting October 1, 2019, all states for the first time will have the option of using foster care funds (Title IV-E) to pay for prevention services, or, more precisely, keeping families together. Those eligible for the prevention services include children (and their parents/kin caregivers) 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. Funding is an entitlement meaning that it will be available for any services that are eligible for reimbursement.
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 must be trauma-informed
• services and programs that are evidence-based (promising, supported, or well-supported practice as defined in the legislation with a pre-approved list to be developed by the Dept. of
Health and Human Services)
• services provided for a maximum of 12 months
• states will be reimbursed for 50% of the cost of services, staff training, and the administrative costs for developing processes and procedures
Each child receiving services must have a written plan that identifies the strategy for keeping the child out of foster care and the services that are needed. States must include a well-designed evaluation for any practice used unless they receive a waiver based on compelling evidence of effectiveness. States must also document how they are tracking and preventing deaths from child abuse and neglect.
The legislation 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:
• allows children to receive unlimited reunification services while in foster care
• children returning home from foster care will have access to 15 months of reunification services
A detailed summary of the legislation prepared by Children’s Defense Fund is available here: http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/family-first-detailed-summary.pdf
Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director