WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on The Opioid Crisis: Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
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Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Welcome to today’s hearing on the Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
“After steady declines in the number of children in foster care, we have unfortunately begun to see an increase again. Both the data and the experience of those on the front lines indicate substance abuse, specifically opioid use and overdose, are a contributing factor.
“More than three years ago, this subcommittee set out to reverse this trend and do what Americans across this country expect of us, we worked together–across the aisle, and across the Capitol. Inspired by a desire to improve outcomes for children, we knew we had to strengthen families, whether they are biological, foster, or adoptive. We remained steadfast to the questions we were hearing from former foster youth, such as ‘Why did you take me away? Why didn’t you help my mom? Why didn’t you help my dad?’
“Backed by research in the field, we set out to change the role of federal taxpayer dollars in foster care and adoption. We wanted to reset the incentives and focus resources earlier with upfront prevention services for substance abuse, mental health, and parenting for all families so fewer children would have to experience additional trauma of being removed from his or her home.
“We listened to advocates, researchers, states, providers, and most importantly foster youth during the multi-year policy development process. For me, one of those voices was Nebraska’s own Boys Town and Rev. Steven E. Boes, where for more than 100 years they been saving children and healing families. Feedback from Boys Town helped us further our goal of providing the right kind of supports at the right time for each child in care.
“Now, six months after the enactment of the Family First Prevention Services Act, we return to talk about the implementation of this important law, again using those same voices to drive our questions today.
“To provide the answers, we are pleased to be joined by HHS Associate Commissioner for the Children’s Bureau and lead policy official for the implementation of Family First, Jerry Milner. He brings with him more than 40 years of practice, management and technical assistance experience in child welfare at the local, state and federal levels. He has been a busy man over the last six months traveling the country to spread the word about Family First and address outstanding questions.
“Thank you, Mr. Milner for being here today and for all your efforts on Family First.
“I also want to commend my home state of Nebraska for being on the leading edge of implementation and setting a strong example for others under the leadership of Dr. Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Director Matthew Wallen of the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
“In June, DCFS hosted a kick-off meeting marking the official start of the state’s efforts to implement the Act and included a number of child welfare stakeholders such as judges, advocates, providers, families and others often involved in the state’s child welfare system. This type of cross-collaboration is precisely what Family First is all about and will create the type of positive systems change to improve outcomes for children and families for years to come.
“They also set up working groups on specific topics which need to be addressed under Family First, and those groups will be meeting regularly over the next few months to develop strategies for implementing Family First.
“Nebraska DHHS also created a website where the public can engage in the process of implementing Family First and monitor the progress.
“The use of technology also exists to their creative thinking families in the rural and sometimes remote areas of our state when it comes to providing prevention services.
“And they are thinking about ways to dovetail Family First with their existing ‘Bring Up Nebraska’ initiative, which is a primary prevention program focused on developing nurturing communities to raise strong and healthy children.
“Every state is different and will have to chart its own course for Family First, but states like Nebraska, Oregon, and others, are showing it can be done when everyone focuses on what is truly important, better outcomes for children and families.”