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.
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.”
The law, known as the Family First Prevention Services Act, was signed in February but compliance restrictions won’t be released until October.
While most child welfare advocates support the move since it prioritizes keeping kids with families, some states with a high percentage of foster kids in group homes, such as Colorado, are worried they won’t be able to afford keeping them open.
According to this story, the government will no longer pay for a child to stay in a group home more than two weeks.
“The group home provision comes after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a 2015 report showing that 40 percent of teens in foster care group homes had no clinical reason, such as a mental health diagnosis, for being there rather than in a family setting. Child welfare experts saw this as more evidence that group homes were being overused. Children’s average stay in a group home is eight months, the report found.”
These new restrictions begin in 2019. However, states can request a two-year delay to implement these new provisions with the understanding that they will no longer receive federal funding for preventive services.
Under the new law, the federal government will also guarantee prevention services to families of children who could end up in foster care – i.e. kids who haven’t yet been removed from their home but are victims of abuse and neglect.
According to the story, “states may use matching federal funding to provide at-risk families with up to 12 months of mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parenting training to families. Eligible beneficiaries are the families of children identified as safe staying at home; teen parents in foster care; and other parents who need preventive help so their kids don’t end up in the system.”
To learn more about the Family First Prevention Services Act, click here.