Lester: Evidence-Based Timeline of Families First Act Might Be Tough to Fulfill

Patrick Lester, who for years headed the public policy shop for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, now leads the Social Innovation Research Center. He’s pretty much a one-man show there as he builds the organization, and he has primarily focused the center’s attention on pay-for-success and social impact bonds.

But Lester jumped into the conversation this week on the Families First Act, the yet-to-be-official bill from the Senate Finance Committee that is expected to propose an overhaul of the multi-billion dollar Title IV-E child welfare entitlement. The bill would add time-limited family preservation services as an allowable expense under IV-E, which right now can be tapped for foster care-related expenses.

Lester posted a really interesting look at the bill’s emphasis on evidence-based practices. Families First would require  time-limited services dollars to be allocated only to models and programs with a viable record of effectiveness, and the standards would rise over time:

By 2017: Dollars could only go to “Promising Practices” programs

By 2020: Dollars could only go to “Evidence-Support” programs

By 2023: Dollars could only go to “Well-Supported” programs

The specific standards related to each rating are at the bottom of Lester’s article. He quotes several research leaders that voice concern about the timeframe, based on the dearth of existing programs with evidence-based credibility. That same lament was shared with Youth Services Insider this week by Cassie Bevan, a member of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

CLICK HERE to access Lester’s article, which is a quick and worthy read.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1210 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.