Maryland Has Been Approved for Federal Foster Care Prevention Funds

The Family First Act was signed into law in February 2018, and mostly takes effect in October 2019

Maryland has become the third child welfare system to receive approval for a plan under the Family First Prevention Services Act, allowing them to draw down federal funds for services to prevent the use of foster care in some child welfare cases.

The state Department of Human Services (DHS) officials announced today that its Family First plan had been approved by the federal Children’s Bureau.

“Maryland’s Family First Prevention Plan builds on the success of current transformation efforts like our Families Blossom|Place Matters, which has reduced the number of children in foster care by 55 percent, from 10,330 in July 2007 to 4,696 in December 2019,” said Michelle L. Farr, executive director of the Social Services Administration at DHS, in a press release announcing the approval. “Family First reinforces the prevention work we are already doing to help change Maryland for the better.”

Family First was passed in 2018 and mostly took effect in October, allowing states to use the Title IV-E entitlement for a list of evidence-based services for mental health, substance abuse or parenting. The law is an expansion of IV-E, which was previously reserved for foster care and adoption costs.

Maryland became the third of four child welfare agencies to receive approval. While a number of states have submitted plans, only the District of Columbia, Utah and Arkansas had been approved so far.

Other systems that plan to implement Family First this year are Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

States were permitted to delay the congregate care limitations in Family First until 2021, but forfeit the ability to draw in foster care prevention funds during that time frame. Seven states have notified the U.S. Children’s Bureau of plans to delay on Family First until later this year, and an additional 32 states plan to delay until 2021.

Update: This article was amended to reflect that Arkansas publicly announced its approval before Maryland, but Maryland was approved first and is the third child welfare system to clear its Family First plan.

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Kim Phagan-Hansel, Managing Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
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