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Bipartisan Legislation Boosting Support for Foster Care System Passes Congress

December 20, 2019

Washington House Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX), Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), praised the inclusion of the Family First Transition Act in the end-of-year funding legislation that passed in the Senate today and heads to the president’s desk for signature. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Grassley and Wyden, and in the House by Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN).

The legislation provides states with additional tools to successfully implement the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which became law last year. FFPSA established federal support for states to transform child welfare systems and keep more children safely at home, instead of placing them in foster care. The Family First Transition Act is supported by over 100 national organizations and more than 350 state and local groups.

“Now that it has passed as part of the end-of-year spending bill, Family First will be a game changer for our foster care system and will help keep more American families intact. Thanks to the hard work of Republican Reps. Jackie Walorski, Brad Wenstrup, Vern Buchanan, and Ron Estes on the Ways and Means Committee, we’re giving our states the necessary time and resources to help bring their child welfare programs into the 21st century,” Brady said.

“The Family First Transition Act will provide states with the tools they told us they need to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act and transform our nation’s child welfare system to strengthen families and give our most vulnerable children the fair start they deserve. I am grateful to Chairman Davis for his leadership, and to all of our Ways and Means Members who worked so hard to get this across the finish line. This just goes to show what we can accomplish when we work together to do the right thing,” Neal said.

“The Family First Prevention Services Act will change the landscape of child welfare, making it possible for more kids to stay with their families instead of entering foster care. I’m glad that states will now receive additional tools to successfully transform their systems, as I know these resources will directly help kids at risk of abuse and neglect,” Grassley said.

“Families and their children in and at risk of entering foster care need help now,” Wyden said. “The enactment of this legislation will enable states to move forward more quickly in providing critical services to safely prevent foster care entries and move children who are already in foster care into placements that will best meet their needs. I am hopeful that states will seize the opportunity Congress has provided and move to make the promise of the Family First Prevention Services Act a reality.”


The FFPSA, signed into law in February 2018, helps keep more children safely with their families and out of foster care. The law supports states in providing evidence-based programs to prevent children from entering foster care, encourages states to place children with foster families instead of in group homes and reduces bureaucracy for—and provides help to—relatives so more children can live with extended family if they must be removed from their homes. The Family First Transition Act, like the original Family First bill, was a unified, bipartisan effort by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Family First Transition Act passed by Congress this week builds on the previous law by:

  • Providing one-time funding to all states to help implement the FFPSA;
  • Providing insurance to states with child welfare demonstration projects that ended on October 1, 2019, guaranteeing they will not face a large financial shortfall as they transition to the new law; and
  • Phasing in the FFPSA requirement that 50 percent of spending on foster care prevention be on programs meeting the highest level of evidence (“well supported”), allowing states to receive reimbursement for a broader range of evidence-based programs in early years while the Department of Health and Human Services expands its list of qualifying programs.

A summary of the bill can be found HERE.

A list of groups that support the bill can be found HERE.