New Federal Kinship Funding, a Prelude to Family First Act, Up for Grabs

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put out instructions late last week for funds to help build programs that help relative caregivers, a service that the federal government will soon split the cost of with states.

The 2018 budget deal, which was reached in March and runs through October, includes $20 million for development of kinship navigator programs, which provide referral and advocacy services to family members who take in children related to a child welfare proceeding.

After October, any state can seek a 50 percent match from HHS to fund kinship navigators, as long as the model being used for the program has been cleared as “evidence-based” by the agency. That was a provision of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was signed into law last February by President Trump and makes several significant changes to the structure of Title IV-E, the entitlement program that currently provides federal cost-sharing on foster care and adoption placements.

The Family First Act’s two major provisions – permitting IV-E reimbursement for certain services aimed at preventing the use of foster care, and limiting support for congregate care placements – don’t kick in until October of 2019. But the match for kinship navigator programs will begin in October at the onset of the next fiscal year.

“As more parents struggle with opioid addiction and other substance use disorders, as well as other issues that affect their ability to parent their children, it is important for Title IV-E agencies to develop resources to support kinship caregivers in learning about, finding, and using programs and services to meet their own needs and the needs of the children they are raising,” said the notice, which was posted on Friday.

Dr. Phil McGraw
At a Capitol Hill briefing this week, Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw stressed the importance of supporting relatives in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Photo courtesy of the office of Rep. Karen Bass.

The $20 million for this year is meant to help interested states “get the bones of [kinship navigator] in place so that when the match comes up, the programs are ready to go,” said Ryan Martin, a senior human services advisor, on a recent webinar with county officials.

Any state, territory or tribe with a IV-E agency is eligible for a portion of this year’s funds. The $20 million will be divided among the groups that apply, using the allocation statistics for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program.

The deadline for agencies to submit is July 20.

The Family First match for kinship navigator requires that the model being used has been designated through research as a well-supported, supported or promising practice. The funds for this year do not carry that threshold – the clearinghouse of approved Family First services has not yet been built – but it does set out five required characteristics and two optional ones.

At a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday, famous TV talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife, Robin, touted kinship supports as a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to opioid use and child welfare.

There are two critical elements: family-based residential treatment, and support for kinship families, said Dr. Phil. “That is the key to addressing the opioid epidemic” for child welfare systems.

“This is grandparents helping other grandparents,” said Robin McGraw. “It shows relatives how to communicate with schools, ensure a child has health services, and helps caregivers in understanding their options.”

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 961 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

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