CHN: Congress Passes Prevention Services Help for Children and Families

On February 9, President Trump signed into law the landmark bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act, as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, the bill includes long-overdue historic reforms to help keep children safely with their families when they come to the attention of the child welfare system and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care; emphasizes the importance of children growing up in families; and helps ensure children are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs when foster care is needed. Child advocates had worked for years to allow federal child welfare funding sources to be used for prevention services, which is finally allowed in this legislation. The Family First Act also offers new supports for preventing and treating families struggling with substance use disorders, including increased support for grandparents and other relatives who have reached out to care for children, regional partnerships to bring systems together to benefit children, and funding to help children be placed in treatment programs with their parents.

In 2016, more than 437,000 children were in foster care. After years of decline, the number of children in foster care has risen steadily since 2012, with anecdotal evidence and expert opinion linking this increase to the parallel rise in opioid addiction and overdoses. In addition to helping families struggling with the opioid epidemic, the bill also extends support for youth transitioning out of foster care and provides funding for mental health services and in-home parent skill-based services. For summary sheets and more info, visit the Children’s Defense Fund’s resource page.

foster care