Family First Clearinghouse Rejects Another Kinship Navigator, Accepts Two New Programs

The clearinghouse created to determine new federal funding eligibility has considered three kinship navigators, programs that serve as one-stop shops for relative caregivers looking for respite care, access to benefits or more general support. 

All three have failed to meet the stringent criteria for funding. And it is unclear if another existing model will have a chance in the near future. 

The clearinghouse today announced that Ohio’s Kinship Supports Intervention “does not meet the criteria” for funding under the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was passed in 2018 and includes a 50-50 match for any kinship navigator program that is approved as evidence-based by the clearinghouse. 

Advocates and researchers in child welfare had high hopes that the Ohio model would gain federal approval, paving the way for federal money to any kinship navigator willing to replicate it. The Ohio program has already been designated as “Promising” by the most well-known registry in child welfare, the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse (CEBC). Only two other kinship support models – Keeping Foster and Kin Parents Supported and Trained, and Support Groups for Grandparent Caregivers – have received a Promising rating from CEBC. 

A 2017 evaluation of Kinship Supports Intervention, which includes more than 8,000 children, found that children whose relatives received it had shorter and more stable stays outside of their home when compared to children placed with nonrelative foster homes, or those living with kin who did not receive the services. 

The evaluation did note “concerns about generalizability to other states” in the limitations section. 

“We are disappointed that the Clearinghouse has not yet approved any kinship navigator programs as meeting the promising standard,” said Jaia Lent, deputy executive director Generations United, in an email. “It is important that a quality kinship navigator program that serves kinship families both outside and inside the system is approved soon so states without programs will have a model that will allow them to access ongoing federal support to help sustain it.” 

Ohio’s kinship support services have been offered through local child welfare offices, but the nonprofit Kinnect Ohio is working with the state to establish a central Ohio Kinship and Adoption Navigator (OhioKAN). The Kinship Supports Intervention would serve as the underpinning for that organization’s mission and services. 

“We’re disappointed, but I think we know now what standards are that the clearinghouse is looking for, and we will make sure an evaluation of OhioKAN will meet those standards,” said Shannon Deinhart, the organization’s co-founder and executive director. 

Deinhart said the plan is for OhioKAN to launch in early fall. The lack of access to Family First Act funds will not jeopardize that, but fellow Kinnect Co-founder Mike Kenney said it could tamp down replication hopes in other states. 

“It’s a hit for kinship navigators in general,” said Kenney. “We’re all waiting for what’s gonna qualify.”

The clearinghouse is still reviewing another kinship navigator model – the one used by the YMCA of San Diego County.

The clearinghouse did approve one therapy model and another home-visiting program for inclusion on the approved list. 

Brief Strategic Family Therapy, in which a counselor works with the family to address adolescent drug use and co-occurring risky behaviors, was given the top rating of “Well-Supported.” 

SafeCare, where home visitors work with parents on positive interaction, recognizing home hazards, and responding correctly to illness or injury, was rated as “Supported.”

The clearinghouse found that two other services in addition to Ohio’s kinship navigator did not meet the criteria for Family First funding:

  • Nurturing Parenting, a 15-session program where parents and children attend separate groups with a goal to roll back parenting behaviors that are known to contribute to child maltreatment.
  • Seeking Safety, a therapy that can be done in group or individual formats to help people cope after trauma, substance abuse or both.

The clearinghouse has now approved 12 services for federal funding under Family First. Another service, called Family Centered Treatment, was approved directly by the U.S. Children’s Bureau in a fast-track process offered to state child welfare agencies. It is currently reviewing another 14 services for Family First approval, including the kinship model used by the YMCA in San Diego. 

With few programs having been reviewed and approved by the clearinghouse thus far, the Trump administration has called for legislative changes that would waive in programs that are rated as Promising or higher by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse, and the federal registry of home-visiting programs.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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