Signed into law on February 9, 2018, as a part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (HR. 1892), Family First includes long-overdue historic reforms to help keep children safely with their families and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care. In passing the law, Congress recognized that too many children are unnecessarily separated from parents who could provide safe and loving care if given access to needed mental health services, substance abuse treatment or improved parenting skills.
FamilyFirstAct.org is a new website created to provide information, resources and advocacy tools on the Family First Prevention Services Act.
You can access summaries of the law, the text of the legislation, stories from constituents with lived experience on why it matters, webinars from national partners, data and research, strategies for implementation and constituent engagement and updates from Congress, HHS and the Children’s Bureau.
You can sign up to receive updates about what’s new in the implementation of the law, utilize communications tools, and download images to share among your networks. FamilyFirstAct.org is a collaborative project with several national organizations.
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Nearly half a million children are currently in foster care. After years of decline in numbers of children in foster care, the number has risen steadily since 2012, with anecdotal evidence and expert opinion linking this increase to the parallel rise in opioid addiction and overdoses. Family First provides struggling and overburdened child welfare agencies with the tools needed to help children and families in crisis, including families struggling with the opioid epidemic.
Young people involved in the child welfare system do best in families, in a safe and stable environment that supports their long-term well-being, according to research. The passage of Family First took a large step toward this vision by restructuring how the federal government spends money on child welfare to ensure that more children in foster care are placed with families. The law also provides more support for critical services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, in-home training and family therapy that can help prevent the need for foster care in the first place.
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The Family First Prevention Services Act (as part of Division E in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892):
- Supports preventions services. The law gives states and tribes the ability to target their existing federal resources into an array of prevention and early intervention services to keep children safe, strengthen families and reduce the need for foster care whenever it is safe to do so.
- Provides support for kinship (relative) caregivers. Provides federal funds for evidence-based Kinship Navigator programs that link relative caregivers to a broad range of services and supports to help children remain safely with them, and requiring states to document how their foster care licensing standards accommodate relative caregivers.
- Establishes requirements for placement in residential treatment programs and improves quality and oversight of services. Allows federal reimbursement for care in certain residential treatment programs for children with emotional and behavioral disturbance requiring special treatment
- Improves services to older youth. Allows states to offer services to youth who have aged out of foster care up to age 23, along with adding flexibility to the Education & Training Voucher (ETV) program.