After much anticipation in the child welfare community, the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (HR 5456) was finally introduced with bipartisan support on June 13, 2016. The bill quickly passed in the House on June 22nd and is waiting to be voted on in the Senate. The FFPSA makes a number of changes to the federal funding of foster care to disincentivize unnecessary“non-family” placements for children in the foster care system and to increase the availability of funding to prevent families from entering the foster care system in the first place.
First, the FFPSA gives states the flexibility to use federal Title IV-E funds to improve prevention through upfront, evidence-based services in areas of mental health, substance abuse prevention and other in-home programs to help struggling parents with the skills needed to prevent their children from entering foster care. Nebraska currently has a “waiver” from the federal government to utilize our federal funding this way for a portion of families through the Alternative Response program. Without a waiver from the federal government, this funding is generally only available once a child is already placed in the foster care system. The FFPSA will also allow for funding for specific short-term services to kinship placements, or those family members who are caring for a relative child who cannot be with their biological parents. Another change would allow foster care maintenance payments to go to parents residing in a in residential treatment settings when their children are living with them.
The FFPSA also requires more strict oversight of when foster care maintenance payments can be made to congregate care facilities like group homes. For example, assessments must be completed to ensure youth are not inappropriately placed in congregate care for extended periods of time, and there are requirements that congregate care facilities have clinical personnel on their staff. This bill also comes with federal oversight protections that aim to ensure that states do not shift children from congregate care to the juvenile justice system. Lastly, the bill requires states to utilize updated electronic systems to share data across state lines, with the intent of reducing wait times for foster children who could be adopted or placed with relatives.
Stay tuned for more updates on the progression of the Family First Prevention Services Act and join the First Focus Campaign for Children by contacting your Member of Congress to take action and support the FFPSA.
Contact Nebraska’s U.S. Senators