Family First Act Gains Three More Major Backers

In September of 2014, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities announced that it was developing a child welfare finance reform plan that it would promote with the help of American Public Human Services Association and the National Organization of State Associations for Children.

It was a quirky concept that proposed to tie together the allowable expenditures in three federal streams, but maintain the way those streams were dispersed.

But the trio of organizations–now calling themselves collectively the Triad for Results-Based Funding for Safe Children and Stronger Families–have at the very least put their plan on the back burner. This month, the Triad announced it would support the Family First Act, a bipartisan finance reform plan in the works from Senate Finance Committee leaders Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

From a statement issued by the Triad:

The draft Family First Act holds the promise of a major step forward for our nation, and we look forward to working with the Senate and House of Representatives to advance this bill.”

The act would, for the first time, permit states to use Title IV-E reimbursement to help keep families in crisis together or reunify. These services would have a 12-month clock, after which federal IV-E funds cease.

The IV-E foster care entitlement–by far the largest federal child welfare expenditure at about $4 billion per year–is currently structured only to support foster care placements. Many believe that guarantee of federal support for foster care leads to unnecessary use of those placements.

The act is also likely to include some restrictions on federal funds for congregate care. An outline of the legislation obtained by Youth Services Insider includes a cut-off for group care after a two-week period. The fine print, however, will likely include a lot of exceptions that exempt health-related placements and settings that enable siblings to stay together.

In announcing the plan at a California conference of residential service providers, Alliance CEO Susan Dreyfus was firm in her opposition to other policy proposals aimed at limiting the use of federal funds for congregate care.

“All the talk about [limiting] residential, this is craziness,” Dreyfus said at a 2014 speech to the California Alliance on Children and Family Services, where she first unveiled the Alliance-led plan. “If you don’t want kids in emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals, why would you want to limit your use of group care?”

In an e-mail to YSI, Alliance spokesperson Latricia Boone said the Triad will have an interest in developing the language about what constitutes a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP). That is expected to be the defined class of congregate care options in Family First that’s eligible for federal support after 14 days, along with facilities for pregnant and parenting teens.

“The Triad continues to actively pursue the best course for refining the provisions related to QRTPs that currently exist in the draft language,” Boone said. “However, we fully support a markup by the Senate Finance Committee so that this important, groundbreaking legislation can move forward.”

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1131 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.