Latest Family First Tally: 39 States Taking Delay for Up to Two Years

The Family First Act was signed into law in February 2018, and mostly took effect this month.

The two main provisions of the Family First Prevention Services Act took effect this month, opening up federal funds for preventing the use of foster care while limiting support for group homes.

There is a bill in the works to help more states take on the law this year, rather than take the permitted delay of up to two years. But for now, it looks like about one in four states will hold off at least until 2020 on implementing Family First.

Seven states have notified the U.S. Children’s Bureau (CB) of plans to delay on Family First until 2020, and an additional 32 states plan to delay until 2021. Washington State notified CB of a delay, but only until December of this year.

Of the 11 tribal systems with their own IV-E plans, five plan to implement this year and six have taken a delay.

In addition to Washington, the other systems that plan to implement Family First in 2019 are: Alaska, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Family First was signed into law in February of 2018, as part of a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open. It permits states to use Title IV-E entitlement funds – previously reserved for foster care and adoption costs – for certain evidence-based services aimed at keeping families together in more child welfare cases.

The law also limits IV-E funding for group homes and other “congregate care” settings to two weeks, with some notable exceptions. States that seek a delay can hold off on the limits to congregate care funds, but cannot access the foster care prevention funds during that time.

Of the 12 systems planning to implement Family First this year, six have already submitted the required plans for approval to CB: Arkansas, Kansas, D.C., Kentucky, Maryland and Utah. The bureau has yet to approve any of the plans.

It will be interesting to see if the Family First Transitions Act, which seems to have bipartisan and bicameral support, can move up the timeline for some of the states taking a delay. The law, a pared down version of the bill first introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) over the summer, does three things:

  • A one-time, $500 million fund to help states prepare for the Family First Act provisions
  • A sweetener for states with a recently expired IV-E waiver, to help them cover anticipated short-term losses
  • A more lenient structure for the law’s evidence-based standards, at least for the first few years.

Click here for a more in-depth rundown of that bill.

States planning to delay through 2020: Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon, Pennsylvania.

States planning to delay through 2021: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

NOTE: This article and accompanying spreadsheet were updated to reflect that CB erroneously listed Oregon’s delay date as 2021, when it is 2020. 

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1131 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.