New York State’s Child Welfare Agency Continues Push Against Family First Act

Congress will be back after Labor Day for what is certain to be a short session, with reckoning day nearing for those seeking reelection. September might be the last chance – for some time – for proponents of the Family First Preservation Services Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at restructuring the Title IV-E foster care entitlement.

YSI-MB-PageThe New York Office of Children and Family Services continued its push against the bill this week, hosting a highly attended webinar to highlight the state’s projected losses under Family First. During the webinar, OCFS General Counsel Dee Alexander urged attendees to contact New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Chuck Schumer (D) and ask them to hold the legislation up.

“None of our concerns have been addressed,” Alexander said. “So we must continue to advocate that bill cannot be passed.”

OCFS projects a $248 million loss under Family First for the state. The vast majority of that, $195 million, comes from two congregate care factors: increased costs to operate federally approved group settings, and increased local costs for youth in congregate settings not approved for federal funding under the new law.

Alexander told attendees that the shortfall would hit counties hard.

“The state does not anticipate being in a position to increase its already significant investment in child welfare to offset this cost impact,” Alexander said. “It’s fair to say that counties would bear a significant financial burden.”

Alexander’s reference to New York State’s “already significant investment” is at the center of the state’s opposition. The main goals of Family First are to open the federal IV-E entitlement up for preventing foster care, while also limiting federal spending on congregate care.

OCFS contends that the state has already successfully done both. Alexander said the state’s cost-sharing program for preventive services with counties has contributed to a 66 percent drop in foster care rolls since 1995. She said 17.5 percent of the state’s 18,000 foster youth were in congregate care; federal data shows it was 22.9 percent in 2004.

Click here to read the PowerPoint presentation shared with webinar attendees. Click here to read about a similar webinar opposing Family First held recently by California’s opponents of the bill.

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