Arizona in Favor of Family First Prevention Services Act

States were caught by surprise by this week’s resurgence of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which offers a significant restructuring of the multi-billion dollar federal entitlement for child welfare.

After attempts in 2016 to attach FFPSA to drug abuse legislation and a spending bill failed, the bill is now included as part of a one-month spending agreement to prevent another government shut-down.

In Arizona, the state’s Department of Child Safety and policy shop Children’s Action Alliance are both in favor of the bill.

“It is imperative that we have the resources to strengthen families so children can remain safe in their homes,” said Darren DaRonco, public information officer for DCS, in an emailed statement. “While at the same time, we need to ensure that children in out-of-home care receive the services they deserve and are being placed in the most family-like settings possible.”

“Provisions in this bill will allow the Department to use federal funding to keep kids safely in homes, instead of only once a child is removed. And it will allow DCS to fully continue providing our prevention programs and out-of-home services to Arizona’s children and families,” DaRonco said.

Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile justice for Children’s Action Alliance, stated in an email that “we are very supportive of the focus of the Family First Prevention Services Act and the long-needed change to the child welfare system federal funding structure.”

Group homes, for which states would face new federal funding limits under the bill, housed about 11 percent of Arizona’s foster youth as of March 2017.

The Chronicle of Social Change reached out to dozens of other states for reaction, but many, including Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, were reluctant to weigh in or did not respond to requests for comment.

Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services public information officer Jon Ebelt, said, “we’re holding off commenting until we have time to completely evaluate the impacts of this legislation.”

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ public information officer Jennifer Brantley said they were unable to have an answer by The Chronicle’s deadline.

Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson Patrick Crimmins said in an email, “We are monitoring the legislation.”

In Washington State, Department of Social and Health Services spokesperson Norah West said in an e-mail to The Chronicle that on first read, “we believe that much of what is proposed is very positive.”

West said the department had “some concerns related to the restrictions aimed at reducing the use of congregate care,” but that “Washington state’s use of congregate care is minimal compared to New York and California, for example.”

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Christie Renick
About Christie Renick 122 Articles
Tucson-based Southwest Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Follow @christiejrenick.