The passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) in February of 2018 represented the first major modernization of the child welfare system in decades and the potential for transformative change. Prior to its passage, states could only receive federal reimbursement once a child was removed from their home and placed in foster care. Under Family First, the federal government will now pay for evidence-based services that keep children safely at home, preventing them from suffering abuse or neglect and from being pulled into the child welfare system. Additionally the law made it more difficult for children to be placed unnecessarily in institutional care, increased support for kinship families, improved services for youth transitioning to adulthood and a bevy of other needed changes to the system. It would be impossible to overstate the potential impact of Family First.
That’s why a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives introduced the Family First Transition Act on Tuesday, aimed at making it easier for states and tribes to take full advantage of the historic opportunities in Family First. The act was introduced by Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden of the Senate Committee on Finance and Chairman Davis and Ranking Member Walorski of the Committee on Worker and Family Support of the House Committee on Ways and Means. It provides $500 million in one-time, flexible funding for states to meet the fiscal challenges of implementation, as well as short-term funding guarantees for states with expiring Title IV-E waivers so they can move forward with Family First without losing the progress they’ve made. It delays certain evidence-based practice requirements to give states greater flexibility to choose the prevention programs that meet the unique needs of their families and communities.
Lastly, we are humbled that the final provision of the Family First Transition Act renames the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) in honor and memory of MaryLee Allen, CDF’s late Director of Policy. PSSF was one the many reforms to the child welfare system that MaryLee worked tirelessly to help enact during her more than 40 year career devoted to protecting children and strengthening families. We are very moved that the Family First Transition Act honors her in such a special way.
Family First was a promise to children that the child welfare system would work to ensure they had the opportunity to grow up in strong, stable families. Children’s Defense Fund is so thankful for the commitment of Senators Grassley and Wyden and Representatives Davis and Walorski to keeping that promise. The Family First Transition Act presents a bold path forward for states and tribes seeking to implement Family First. We sincerely believe that its passage will allow states and tribes to meet the opportunities contained in Family First. We urge Congress to join them in passing the Family First Transition Act.