Head of Major N.Y. Congregate Care Organization Calls Out State for Opposing Family First

As we reported last week, New York’s Office of Children and Family Services has formally opposed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which would open up the federal IV-E entitlement for certain services to prevent foster care while limiting the federal contribution to group homes and other kinds of congregate care.

Its letter depicted the bill’s supporters as well-meaning groups with no direct skin in the game, “advocate groups” that “do not actually operate any IV-E programs.”

YSI-MB-PageCertainly true, in many cases. The Child Welfare League of America, First Focus and Children’s Defense Funds of the world do not have to manage a fiscally viable outlay of placement options with less federal money for congregate care.

But the bill has some notable supporters in the world of congregate care, including Jeremy Kohomban, CEO of The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Kohomban sits on the board of directors for the Alliance of Strong Families and Communities, and has overseen the organization’s transition from residential care-dominant to one focused on keeping kids in their communities (or returning them as quickly as possible).

Kohomban, in a column for the Huffington Post, stopped short of directly criticizing his state for its opposition. But his final stanza does seem to shame the state for holding up national reform. Says Kohomban:

My organization, The Children’s Village, is a residential treatment provider in New York, a state that has served as the model for this act and probably has the least to gain. At The Children’s Village, we know the importance of good residential treatment – it is life saving for those who need it. We are consistently and publicly assertive in making this position known.

We also know that passing H.R. 5456, the Family First Prevention Services Act, will benefit the children and families we serve. We are already well ahead of the curve in moving toward preventive care (having begun this shift more than ten years ago), and we have already suffered the expenses of this transition, but we are proud to be on the right side of history.

Another point Kohomban makes is that he doesn’t believe that the shortfall in federal funds is doomsday for congregate care. Children’s Village’s residential programs will likely not meet Family First’s “Qualified Residential Treatment Program” standards, one of the few ways in the bill to tap federal funds for group care after 14 days. But he believes his programs will be fine.

“Another argument in opposition is that group homes will be financially disadvantaged,” Kohomban said. “As a group home provider, I know that this is true. Our homes probably cannot become QRTP’s, but most group homes are most likely not federally funded anyway.”

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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 1212 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.