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.
An amendment that would allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples looking to adopt and punish states that attempt to prevent this from occurring passed the House Appropriations Committee in early July.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), would not only prevent states from taking action against agencies that decline to provide services based on their religious beliefs but also would direct the federal government to withhold 15 percent of federal funding from any state that refuses to allow discrimination to take place.
States like New Jersey, California and Rhode Island with laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are at risk of funding cuts if the new amendment remains part of the final funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Continue reading →
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.
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.
The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), recently passed through Congress, has massive implications for kinship caregivers in the United States. As previously reported on this site, kinship care, the placement of children with relatives instead of traditional foster parents, has been increasingly viewed as the best form of foster care. This is largely because it uses a child’s existing connections with family for placement instead of relying on people whom the child may not know and might have trouble integrating with. Traditional foster care placement, although intended to serve the best interests of children, often introduces its own brand of pain and trauma when a child is removed from their family. Unfortunately, existing practices in the child welfare system have created momentum in states which can lead to kinship care being underfunded when compared to traditional foster care or congregate (group home) care placements. Over the course of more than fifteen years, Kinship Navigator Programs (KNPs) have been gaining traction as a way to bolster informal kinship care to provide better outcomes for the children living with relative caregivers.
Initially started as state and county-based initiatives, KNPs gained their first national sponsorship through Family Connection Grants provided by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. However, with only two rounds of these grants occurring in 2009 and 2012, KNPs have not been able to truly flourish in every state. According to Grandfamilies.org, as a result of budgetary crises, only the KNPs in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Washington state have survived into the present day.
Youth in care across the nation have an uphill battle when it comes to education. Each time a child is moved to a new foster home they can fall months behind their peers at school. They must overcome staggering odds to graduate from high school, with only half receiving their diplomas. For those that go on to college, the numbers are even more daunting.
More than half the states across the nation have tuition assistance programs for youth in care and those who have recently aged out of the system. To add another layer of support, nearly every state uses federal and state funding to offer extended foster care until the age of 21. Yet, even with these programs and funding in place, only 46 percent of youth in care will earn a high school diploma, with less than three percent receiving a bachelor’s degree.