Government may be at a standstill regarding most issues facing America these days however an area it does seem to be moving on is child welfare. The Famiy First Act, now with a number – HR 5456, seems to have a lot of steam and will in all likelihood go to President Obama for signature before the July 15 congressional recess. The language of this bill has greatly changed over the past year with many entities providing feedback.
This bill has something in it for all our members. Our CCI members may well focus on the QRTC provisions that include adding nursing coverage (we are still attempting to shape this wording) and accreditation requirements. Our CPA members will most likely see the added emphasis on kinship care. While our Family Preservation members will see a shifting of resources to prevention services utilizing evidence-based/informed models. Most notably is that this bill set a tone for recognizing the need for a full array of services from prevention to high end care with a heavy leaning towards the least restrictive end of the continuum.
The final language of the bill is still under construction in the House. However it is assumed to have bi-partisan support and should be finalized for vote in the very near future. Though it may be over 18 months before the provisions of the FFA go into effect it would serve all member agencies well to get familiar with it and determine how best to move your organizations forward. Please let us know how Together Georgia can best assist you in that work.
The key provisions as provided by The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, as it now reads in the House include:
·Increases access to early intervention mental health prevention and treatment, substance abuse prevention and treatment and in-home parent skill-building for 12 months when the need for the intervention is directly related to the safety, well-being or permanency for the child or to keep them from entering foster care.
·Delivery of these early intervention services is available to the parents, kin caregivers and child when the child is at risk for foster care entry, but can remain safely at home with appropriate services and supports. The definition of child includes a pregnant or parenting youth in foster care.
·Use of evidence-based early intervention programs across the categories of promising, supported and well-supported. Exceptions are built in that allow the Secretary flexibility to approve practices that have compelling evidence of effectiveness, a well-designed and rigorous evaluation strategy, and the State meets continuous quality improvement requirements. Based on our work and our partnership with APHSA and NOSAC through the Triad, the Alliance is particularly pleased that our advocacy helped to influence the modification of the requirement for use of evidence-based early intervention programs to include greater flexibility by allowing use across all categories of promising, supported and well-supported and the possibility of exceptions. The previous legislative proposal had much more restrictive requirements.
·Requires Regional Partnership Grants (RPG) that fund state and regional grantees providing evidence-based services to prevent maltreatment due to substance abuse. Congress is tying this provision to its efforts to address the opioid addiction crisis. Regional partnerships are defined as collaborative agreements that may be established on an interstate, state or intrastate basis.
·Additional support for kin caregivers through a federal match for Kinship Navigator programs and a requirement that states document how their foster care licensing standards reasonably accommodate kin caregivers.
·Continuation of assistance from the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to former foster youth up to age 23, and to extend eligibility for education and training vouchers to youth to age 26.
·Required use of electronic interstate case-processing systems to help expedite the interstate placement of children in foster care, adoption or guardianship.
·Reauthorizes the Title IV-B Promoting Safe and Stable Families and Child Welfare Services programs and the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payment program for five years (FY2017 – FY2021).
·Takes steps, including requiring a GAO Report, to ensure states are reinvesting state dollars freed up by making additional children eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance payments and postpones for 2 ½ years the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance “de-link” for the adoptions of infants and toddlers.
·Establishes definitions for a foster family home and qualified residential treatment program (QRTP) and defines the process by which a child’s need for treatment in a QRTP is assessed and progress is monitored. More details below in the section “Title II: Ensuring the Necessity of a Placement That is Not in a Foster Family Home.”