House Passes Child Welfare Finance Reform Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which now heads back to the chamber that originated its framework.

With a voice vote that suggested overwhelming support, the House moved forward legislation that would drastically alter Title IV-E, the federal entitlement currently slated for foster care funding. For the first time, IV-E funds could be used to fund efforts to prevent the use of foster care, and could not be used for more than two weeks of congregate care placements.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) originated this legislation last year.

“I am working with Sen. Hatch and all our colleagues to pass our bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act in the U.S. Senate,” Wyden said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “Sending this bill to the president’s desk will help millions of children avoid unnecessarily going through the trauma of being ripped from their families.”

Under Family First, state and county child welfare agencies would be able to tap federal dollars to help pay for services aimed at preventing the need for foster care. IV-E dollars could be used in a match to support substance abuse, mental health and parenting services for parents who are deemed at imminent risk of losing kids to foster care.

IV-E money could be tapped for 12 months of those services.

On the other end, the bill severely restricts federal IV-E dollars when it comes to congregate foster care settings such as institutions, residential care facilities and group homes. The bill cuts off federal support after two weeks, and also includes exceptions for three settings:

  • Qualified residential treatment programs.
  • A prenatal, postpartum or parenting support program.
  • An independent living program for people who remain in foster care after age 18.

The definition of “qualified residential programs” is spelled out in seven sets of criteria within the legislation. They include credentials from one of several accreditation providers, use of a trauma-informed treatment model and the presence of licensed clinical and nursing staff on site during business hours.

Click here to read all of The Chronicle‘s continuing coverage of the Family First Prevention Services Act.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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