What You Need to Know About the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed in to law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act in February 2018. FFPSA implements widespread child welfare reform that specifically focuses on keeping families together to prevent young people from entering the child welfare system, and encouraging kinship or family foster care placements when they are removed from parental custody.

One provision of FFPSA allows for federal funds to be used to support minors and families and prevent foster care placements. The bill seeks to achieve this by providing evidence-based mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services, in-home parent skill-based programs, and kinship navigator services. Additionally, FFPSA strengthened supports for foster youth transitioning to adulthood.

Implementation of FFPSA is the responsibility of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ACF oversees child welfare through the Children’s Bureau (CB) as well as Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) grants through the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). Implementation of FFPSA will likely impact RHYA grantees in several direct and indirect ways.

Specifically, RHYA providers who contract with their state/local child welfare agencies may need to examine their contracts for service, and the delivery of programs, particularly where those youth are eligible for federal foster care payments under Title IV-E.  NN4Y has sought to provide an overview of some of these impacts to ensure that RHY providers and stakeholders have an understanding of these implications.

Prevention Services

The expansion of access to prevention services for child welfare involved families is intended to keep families together and reduce separation as much as possible. As clarified in the Informational Memorandum released by Children’s Bureau in April 2018 (ACYF-CB-IM-18-02), these prevention services may be offered for up to one year to provide mental health/substance use treatments and/or in-home parent skill-based programs.

RHY providers who have contracts with their state/county child welfare systems to provide services for youth who are eligible for federal foster care payments under Title IV-E, will likely need to meet certain requirements to continue to be reimbursed with federal funding for these services.

  • They must be specified in advance in the youth’s “prevention plan” which:
    • Identifies the particular strategy and shows how it keeps the youth at home, allows them to live temporarily with kin until reunification is safe, or live permanently with kin;
    • Names the services and/or programs that ensure the success of the strategy; and
    • Complies with any other requirements established by the HHS Secretary
  • They must be trauma informed; and
  • The practice/treatment administered by the service must:
    • Have available writings that identify the components of the protocols and procedures of administration;
    • Have no empirical evidence to show that any risk of harm outweighs the benefits;
    • Have overall weight of evidence support the benefits of the practice/treatment;
    • Have no case data suggesting any risk of harm has been caused by the practice/treatment and was frequent or severe; and
    • Be provided in ways recognized as promising, supported, or well-supported practices.

Out of Home Placements

RHY providers often house child welfare youth, either in longer-term placements under contract with state/local child welfare agencies, or in temporary shelter either by agreement for emergency situations or because a minor has run away from a foster placement.  FFPSA does not remove the ability of RHY providers to be compensated for serving as an out of home placement, but it will likely limit the types of services, and amount of time for those services, that an RHY grantee may be reimbursed for. This limitation plays out in the following ways:

  • The 2 week limit on paying for ‘congregate care’ placements will likely apply to CW youth staying at a Basic Center Program (BCP), even if the child welfare agency has agreed that that is the safest place for the youth to be while they establish a new placement for them.
  • Restrictions on minors in “independent living” setting will likely restrict the ability of CW agencies to place minors in Transitional Living Programs (TLP).

The 2014 Informational Memorandum (ACYF-CB/FYSB-IM-14-1) released by ACF clarified that RHY grantees may be reimbursed for serving a young person who is Title IV-E eligible (ACYF-CB/FYSB-IM-14-1, (Nov. 4, 2014). This IM remains in effect, and current reimbursement options will be available to RHY providers and CW agencies until further guidance on implementing FFPSA is released.

Other impacts the law may have for RHY providers to be aware of

National Network for Youth is already thinking about the impacts this law may have on RHY providers and will be watching and providing input to ACF as the law is implemented. More detail about these issues can be read in the Informational Memorandum published this year, ACYF-CB-IM-18-02.

  • There will be a new electronic case processing system requiring state Title IV-E agencies to have an interstate system by October 2027. We will be monitoring this for any potential coordinated entry system or RHYMIS confidentiality issues.
  • Prevention of juvenile justice population increases. Agencies are being required to certify they will not enact policies that will significantly increase the juvenile justice population in response to the restrictions on title IV-E foster care payments for child care institutions. FFPSA’s overall shifts, including the reimbursement limitations on length of stay and age of service that may impact the ability for BCP and TLPs to serve child welfare youth, have raised concerns about the prospect of increased juvenile justice involvement from the field.
  • Maternity Group Homes serving mothers with substance abuse issues and long waits/not enough beds, may want to consider discussing a licensed residential family-based substance abuse treatment facility as an option with a young parent family in their program who would qualify as Title IV-E eligible. Title IV-E dollars will be allowed to be used for up to 12 months of treatment in a facility such as this in order to keep parent and an eligible child together while the parent seeks treatment. The facility must also offer case planning; parenting skills training, parent education; and individual and family counseling; and must be trauma informed.
  • Revisions to the John H. Chaffee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood permit states to provide the Chafee program up to age 23 IF the agency extended Title IV-E foster care to 21, OR provides comparable services using state or any other funds outside of Title IV-E. In theory, this could end up including US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects (YHDP).
  • Chaffee revisions also provide that not more than 30% of the Chaffee allotment may be spent on room and board for youth who aged out of foster care but haven’t yet turned 21, or 23 in states with extended foster care up to 21 years of age.
  • There is optional funding under Title IV-E at 50% of the Federal Financial Participation rate for kinship navigator programs that meet 1) the existing navigator requirements and 2) promising, supported or well-supported practice requirements of prevention services, regardless of whether the youth/family served is Title IV-E eligible.
  • Title IV-B is the provision of child welfare services that can be used for prevention of and response to child abuse and neglect. Its intended uses include to protect and promote welfare; prevent neglect, abuse, and exploitation; support at-risk families to stay together; and provide training and professional development to make sure the workforce is well-qualified.
    • In the service definitions section, revisions to “family reunification services” allows for 15 months of such services when youth return home from foster care, and removes the 15 month limitation for a youth still in foster care to receive these services.
    • Revisions were made to the regional partnership grant to help families struggling with substance abuse. The revisions require state child welfare agencies and state agencies administering substance abuse prevention and treatment block grants to be partners in the grant application and revises the optional partners. RHY grantees, while not specified, may fall into the last category (“Any other providers… or entities that are related to the provision of child and family services under a State plan approved under this subpart.”).

August 23, 2018

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