Congress passed drastic child welfare reforms that aim to reduce the removal of kids from their homes. But some worry they will cost states and harm children.
By J.B. Wogan | Governing
In February, Congress made a bipartisan deal that avoided a government shutdown and raised spending limits for defense and non-defense programs. The deal’s immediate budget implications grabbed most of the headlines at the time, but tucked into the legislative package was the biggest change in almost 40 years in how child welfare is funded.
Months later, states and localities are still trying to figure out what the new Family First Prevention Services Act means for them and whether they have enough time to comply with it.
Under the new law, the federal government will offer unprecedented support for keeping families together. In the past, the federal government would only reimburse states for child welfare services that were delivered after children were removed from their homes. Starting in October 2019, states can also be reimbursed for services that keep children safely at home with their families.
“The Family First legislation seems to fall in line with the popular notion across the states of favoring family reunification over other placements for dependent children. I am anxious to see if this new funding for states somehow increases the success rate of keeping children in their homes by affording families the financial support to tackle problems before children are removed from the home. This would, in turn, alleviate some of the financial strain on states to fund and regulate foster homes and find suitable foster placements when there are no family members available to step in.”