Understanding the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

A groundbreaking piece of legislation has passed through Congress and is seeing the beginning stages of implementation across the country.  The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), originally designed as its own bill, has been passed into law attached to a government spending bill.  The FFPSA has implications for all child welfare providers in the United States but finally brings the federal government in line with what child welfare studies have been saying for years:  kinship care is the most effective form of foster care.  The provisions of the FFPSA pave the way to move foster care away from a system that relies on people who are, effectively, strangers to the children being placed with them and bolsters states’ ability to support and grow kinship care communities.  To do this, the bill will divest from congregate (group home) care and shift funds into what could be called the “Foster Care New Deal.”  This legislation has two primary approaches – it will create prevention services and family supports to address the causes that lead to foster care placement while developing the infrastructure relative caregivers need to allow them to care for the children for whom prevention services were insufficient.

What Does the FFPSA Do?

The first approach, prevention services, has the goal of reducing the need for child welfare systems entirely.  Through the establishment of mental health services, substance abuse treatment and prevention programs and in-home parenting skill programs, the FFPSA will help states work with biological parents to ensure that not only do their children get to experience bright futures but also that those children get to do so in their own home, with their biological family.

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Migrant Children – What Happens Next?

America’s history of welcoming all to our shores was challenged by the current administration’s zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration, which began on May 7, 2018, and due to national outcry, ended on June 20th.

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During that short time, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents, who, searching for asylum and a better future for their sons and daughters, entered the country illegally. The Washington Post reports that, to date, 500 children, including 22 children under the age of 5, remain in U.S. government-owned shelters; out of those 500 children, 497 have parents who have been deported.

Government officials and outside advocates are now faced with the daunting task of reunifying these families. This entails locating and contacting parents to ask them if they want their children returned to them in their home country, or if they want their children to remain in the United States to pursue their own immigration cases.

Children are also being asked if they wish to be deported or remain; not surprisingly, in most cases, they are saying they want to return to their homeland. The American Civil Liberties Union believes the children are opting to go home not because they feel safe there but because it is where their parents are. But even when children ask to leave the United States, they are often forbidden to do so by the same government that punished them for coming, due to a temporary court order. For this reason, some lawyers are suggesting to deported parents that they return to the United States to seek asylum for their entire family rather than remain separated indefinitely.

But what will happen to those children who cannot be reunified and cannot be placed with relatives in the United States? They will either remain in their current shelter, at a cost of up to $750 per day or enter into an already overburdened foster care system. This is, of course, in addition to another, less tangible but no less important cost – the emotional damage to these children and families.

To read the Washington Post story, visit their website.

Gun Control and Foster Care

As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students continue to push for gun control reform and the national debate rages on, one population of parents is facing an extra hurdle in gun laws – foster parents. Foster parents regularly help children deal with the same issues that plagued the young, traumatized Nikolas Cruz, and as the threat of increased gun control regulations grows, they are fighting for their right to own, carry and operate firearms while caring for foster children.

First, it’s important to understand how we got here. On February 14th, 2018, Nikolas Cruz committed what is one of the most discussed mass shootings in American history. His story, however, began much earlier than that – his biological mother, a drug addict who was incarcerated at the time of his birth, gave him up for adoption to Lynda Cruz when he was three days old . After turning 10, he was diagnosed with autism and later, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
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New Federal Law Limits Institutionalized Care for Foster Children

A new federal law that was included in President Donald Trump’s massive spending bill will drastically change the way states can spend its annual $8 billion in federal funds for child abuse prevention.

New Federal Law Limits Institutionalized Care for Foster Children

According to a Huffington Post story: “The law… prioritizes keeping families together and puts more money toward at-home parenting classes, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment — and puts limits on placing children in institutional settings such as group homes. It’s the most extensive overhaul of foster care in nearly four decades.”
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Defining “Normal”: Creating a Sense of Normalcy For Foster Youth

For many, childhood is marked with memories of sleepovers and vacations or passing the driver’s exam and taking that first drive to an after-school job. For foster children, however, it can be difficult to share in these experiences that so many consider normal. As wards of the state, foster children are at the mercy of the legal system – their foster parents are required to go jump through several legal hoops such as restrictions on car insurance, required background checks for potential chaperones or pre-scheduled court dates and visitation periods. Some of these even require the foster parents to personally fund the endeavors. Child welfare providers across the country are increasingly recognizing that these regulations, once thought to protect children, actually impede the foster care system from providing the best care possible.

What Is Normalcy for Foster Youth and Why Is It Important?

“Before, we were trying to keep kids from getting hurt…. We put them in a room and made sure nothing happened to them,” Mike Watson, an executive for a Florida foster care agency, said of previous foster care standards. “We don’t want supervisors. We want people to parent. We had created this artificial relationship where you had state-sanctioned individuals in a home acting like a jailer.” Now, there is a push for “normalcy.” Normalcy is a standard of care that enables foster youth to share in the everyday activities that allow them to develop the skills that will build a true sense of independence. But what, exactly, is normalcy for foster youth? Continue reading

Keeping the Faith? Georgia Act Threatens LGBTQ Parents’ Ability to Adopt

Georgia’s Senate recently passed the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act (Senate Bill (SB)375), which would permit the state’s foster care and adoption agencies to refuse LGBTQ parents and others who do not share the agencies’ religious beliefs. As reported in Newsweek, the state Senate passed the bill on Friday, February 23.

LGBTQ Parents’ Ability to Adopt
The implications of this Act would reach deeper than many might think, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ rights organization. Not only would it allow agencies to refuse adoption to LGBTQ parents but also to interfaith couples, single parents and those who have been divorced. It would also impact services offered to LGBTQ youth in care.

In a statement, Marty Rouse, National Field Director of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”

While detractors, including GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, call the Act an imposition of religious values for the purpose of discrimination, others feel the Act will not impact the LGBTQ community in the ways it fears. Georgia Senator William Logan has stated that prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents will be able to go through other non-faith based agencies, adding that such arrangements would allow agencies tied to religion the ability “…to exercise their fundamental right to practice their faith.”

Georgia is a stark contrast to New Jersey, where LGBTQ families are welcomed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. To learn more about National LGBT Adoption Laws, click here.