Transition Act proposed to support FFPSA implementation

November 2019 · Advocacy, Ministry News

Congressional champions for the Family First Prevention Services Act, who are working in a bi-partisan and bi-cameral manner, this week continued to demonstrate support of a successful FFPSA implementation.

On Nov. 5, 2019, the House and the Senate introduced the Family First Transition Act, which has provisions designed to help states and stakeholders ease the transition to the federal child welfare financing structure in the FFPSA.

The Transition Act works to:

  • Mitigate the effects of the expiration of the IV-E Waiver Demonstration Program
  • Phase in the requirement that 50 percent of each state’s evidence-based practices under the IV-E Prevention Program meet the highest evidence standard of “well supported” and
  • Provide one-time flexible funding to states in support of FFPSA implementation.

Kansas and Nebraska, both states in which Saint Francis Ministries works, are early implementers of FFPSA, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2019.

It is the hope of many that the Family First era is one in which more children who have experienced the trauma of maltreatment, including neglect, can live and thrive safely with families who become stabilized and restored through evidence-based, trauma-informed programs (EBPs). The new opportunity is a shared federal and state financing partnership that makes this family-centered approach to attaining well-being possible. In some states, the FFPSA presents a new opportunity to keep children safely with their families and out of foster care. In other states, it was their work that informed the IV-E Prevention Program, which is notable as the big new change in federal financing ushered in by FFPSA. Through the IV-E waiver and/or state investments, many states have already experienced success in keeping families together and will build on that momentum.

It is these “waiver” states and jurisdictions, whose work informed the FFPSA, for which one provision of the Transition Act is particularly useful. According to today’s Senate Finance Committee press release, if the Transition Act passes, it would provide “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.”

In addition to this effort to mitigate the effects of the conclusion of the IV-E Waiver Demonstration Program, the Transition Act would ease the implementation of the new IV-E Prevention Program by phasing in the requirement that 50 percent of spending on foster care prevention be on programs that are “well-supported,” meaning they meet the highest evidence standard required by the FFPSA. This phase-in will give states flexibility to draw down the federal reimbursement across an array of promising, supported and well-support programs. This provision comes in response to the length of time it is taking for the federal IV-E Prevention Program Clearinghouse to offer a sufficient array of well-supported EBPs from which states can choose.

Finally, bringing $500 million in flexible, federal support to improve outcomes for children and families and reduce unnecessary family separations, is a rare and welcome investment in state child welfare systems. Since the FFPSA passed Congress in 2018 without any additional money to states for implementation, except for the small amount of $8 million in federal financing to support the pressing need for foster family recruitment and retention across the nation, the Transition Act could be viewed as a responsive course correction. It demonstrates that Congress is listening to constituents and is responding to the expressed need for additional resources to effectively implement the most significant child welfare system reform in decades.

Saint Francis Ministries is supportive of the Family First Transition Act and partnered with the National Organization of State Associations for Children (NOSAC), Boys Town and the Association of Children’s Residential Centers (ACRC) earlier this year on a congressional advocacy campaign in support of the addressing the delay of the 50% “well-supported” requirement, which manifests in the Transition Act as the phase in of that requirement.

“We’ve seen incredible momentum in states across the country as they prepare to implement last year’s Family First law. Unfortunately, some want to preserve the status quo. So we’re introducing the Family First Transition Act to give states the help they need to transform their systems, which is more effective and less expensive than delaying these changes,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Finance Committee, in this week’s press release from the Senate Finance Committee. “This will directly help kids at risk of abuse and neglect, and I’ll work closely with my colleagues to find the resources needed to move this forward.”

“As we work to keep children safe and families together, it makes sense to provide states with the support they need to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.). “Strengthening state-level child welfare programs will reduce the need for foster care and improve outcomes for kids and their parents. I’m grateful to Chairman Davis for his leadership on this matter, and I’m pleased that the Family First Transition Act received such strong bipartisan support from Ways and Means Committee members.”