This is part two of a five-part policy brief: Opportunities to Protect Children During the 2019 Legislative Session.
The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), approved on a bipartisan basis by Congress in February 2018, represents a major reform in how the federal government structures federal financing of child welfare. The new law is accompanied by a possible new infusion of federal funds, if certain criteria are met. The FFPSA, often referred to as the Family First Act, includes many components, but the main goals behind the law are helping families in crisis safely stay together and reducing the foster care population by:
Diverting children from foster care, and
Increasing the number of children successfully exiting foster care by reducing reliance on congregate (or group) care, which evidence suggests may reduce a child’s future ability to find a stable, family-based placement.
Under FFPSA, if states meet certain criteria, they may use federal Title IV-E funding to expand behavioral health and in-home parenting skill-building services for parents at risk of having their children removed by CPS. However, the law only allows the use of federal dollars for certain types of foster care placements and severely restricts funding for group care. The FFPSA only allows federal funding to be used for foster family homes, family-based residential treatment, specialized care for pregnant and parenting youth, specialized care for children who were victims of or at risk for human trafficking, and Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs, a new term for institutional care settings that meet heightened standards set out in the law). After the first two weeks in a placement, states will no longer be able to use federal IV-E funding for any other types of group settings.
Where It Stands
Under the FFPSA, states were given the option to delay implementation for up to two years to prepare for the changes necessary to comply with the new funding parameters. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) announced on November 14, 2018, its decision to delay implementation. While DFPS has not asked for resources to ramp up for FFPSA implementation, the Legislature should work now to ensure Texas can take full advantage of the new funding for prevention services and reduce reliance on the types of congregate care that federal funding will no longer support when Texas begins implementation of the law in the fall of 2021.