Top Stories of 2019: A Year of Confused Preparation on Family First Act

We’re counting down 10 of the biggest stories The Chronicle of Social Change published in 2019. Each day, we’ll connect readers with a few links to our coverage on a big story from this past year.

The most significant federal child welfare reform in decades became law in 2018 as basically an addendum to a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open. This year, the major provisions of the Family First Prevention Services Act took effect.

The law for the first time opens up the Title IV-E child welfare entitlement for spending on efforts to prevent the use of foster care in some cases. It also cuts back on federal dollars available to place youths in congregate care.

The year that Family First took effect was marked by slow-to-develop rules, uncertainty about what would be allowed, and efforts to convince more states to act now and avoid delays on the law.

Lead Read

Family First established a new tier of residential placement in child welfare called the Qualified Residential Treatment Program. That threatens to expose what some believe is the questionable use of Medicaid in paying for congregate care.

Also Read

Close to a dozen states plan to implement the law this year, with 39 systems opting to seek a permitted delay. Only two systems have an approved Family First plan so far: Washington, D.C. and Utah.

Meanwhile, a bill meant to coax more states into Family First this year is poised to move in both chambers of Congress.

A clearinghouse built to approve services under Family First has been slow to produce a roster of options, so the feds have created a direct path for states to pitch their favorite programs.

One of Trump’s top child welfare officials fears the potential for the law to become a box-checking exercise when it comes to limiting the use of group homes and institutions.

How one nonprofit hopes to continue the discussion on Family First with states, region by region.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1210 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at