Putting Children, Families First

April 6, 2018 — Blog   

The Ways and Means Committee has been proactive on advocating and moving legislation to strengthen families and communities across the country.

Included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and enhanced in the recently implemented appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2018 was the Family First Prevention Services Act (“Family First”). This law:

  • Helps parents with substance abuse and mental health issues by providing evidence-based services to safely keep children at home;
  • Alters the structure of the federal child welfare financing, shifting funds toward providing upfront, preventative services and away from the least desirable outcome — placing children in foster care, especially in group homes; and
  • Combats the opioid and heroin epidemic by reauthorizing and updating Regional Partnership Grants, a program that aids in providing community-designed substance abuse services for families.

Additionally, Family First:

  • Keeps families together by providing services that maintain a safe environment for children to remain at home, preventing traumatic placements of children in foster care;
  • Promotes family placements for children in foster care by closely reviewing the necessity of foster care placements for appropriateness; and
  • Provides additional funding for states and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide immediate services and prepare to implement this new law for when funds begin in fiscal year 2020.

Family First puts our must vulnerable Americans first and offers hope through evidence-based approaches for a brighter future for our children and communities. Here’s what groups and people from around the country have been saying about this important law:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit:

“[Family First] will restructure how the federal government spends money on child welfare — in large and small ways that stand to improve challenging conditions that prevail today. … The legislation will also ensure more children in foster care are placed with families by directing federal reimbursements to support placements in families and ending reimbursements when states inappropriately place kids in group facilities. These are evidence-based approaches informed by the experiences of caseworkers, parents and children themselves.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics applauds Congress for passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 this morning, which includes funding for several programs critical to children’s health… The Family First Prevention Services Act, long-supported by the AAP…is a significant reform of the child welfare system to emphasize prevention instead of family separation.”

Dr. William C. Bell, President and CEO of Casey Family Programs, a foster care advocacy foundation:

“This legislation makes it clear that our national child and family well-being response systems will not operate as though it is possible to fully address the well-being of children, without addressing the well-being of their families and their communities. We have always known that it is vitally important that we intervene as early as possible to ensure the safety of children. Family First gives states and tribes the ability to target their existing federal resources into an array of prevention and early intervention services to keep children safe, strengthen families and reduce the need for foster care whenever it is safe to do so.”

The Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy organization, said:

“[Family First]…includes long overdue historic reforms to help keep children safely with their families when they come to the attention of the child welfare system and assures them quality care in the most family-like setting appropriate for their special needs when placement in foster care is needed.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about our Committee’s efforts to strengthen communities and families everywhere.