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Understanding the Families First Prevention Services Act

On February 9, 2018, the Families First Prevention Services Act was signed into law by the President as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This comes as welcome news for children and youth who are currently placed in foster care, as well as for families in which the children are at-risk of coming into foster care.

The Families First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) redirects federal funds to provide services to keep children out of foster care and keeps them living safely with their family. In situations in which an out of home placement is necessary and/or for children who have emotional and behavioral disturbances, federal money will be available to care for the child in family-based settings and certain residential treatment facilities. This is all significant because it represents the first time federal funds were made available for preventative services.

Children qualify for services if they are “candidates” for foster care who are at imminent risk of entering the foster care system and can safely remain at home with parents or kin caregivers. This will also apply to families who have adopted children if the adoption is at risk of disrupting. Services that the family can receive include: mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment, in-home parent skill-based programs, parent education, and individual and family counseling in the home.

There are also no income requirements, so all families can potentially benefit from the new funding. However, the services that are implemented with the family must be identified as “evidence-based practices.” The law will also allow some flexibility and leniency in approving grandparents and kin to be approved placements for children and youth.

FFPSA will have an impact on the way Embrace TFC does business. One of the goals of the legislation is to reduce the number of children and youth in residential facilities and group homes, also known as congregate care. As a result, children and youth who cannot remain in a congregate care setting, but are not yet able to return home, will be served in a family foster home. This means more children and youth will need resource home placements.

To account for this, grant money will be made available to recruit for kinship and resource families. FFPSA also assures that the biological family will be involved in the placement. The law also recommends that TFC staff receive training in: trauma-specific treatment, the use of “evidence-based practices,” competency in substance abuse disorders/opioid use disorder (SUD/OUD), and documentation of interventions and outcomes. Finally, TFC services and case management aimed at prevention, intervention, and reunification or stabilization, can be provided in biological homes, kinship homes, foster homes, and post-adoptive homes.

Virginia has already started planning how to utilize the new funds that will be available to families. A statewide workgroup has been formed and they will begin meeting this summer to determine how best to implement FFPSA in Virginia. There is no way to know what this will look like, but there will be some exciting changes coming so that children and youth can remain in family settings!


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