Family First Prevention Services Act Takes a Proactive Approach to Child Welfare

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If you read our last blog, you know that HSITAG focuses on driving deeper understanding within the vendor community around the ways in which our clients are attempting to transform their HHS enterprises. The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) offers the framework to shift child welfare from a reactive to proactive system and underscores the important role of integrated family data.

At the July HSITAG meeting in Washington, DC, we hosted Ann Flagg, Director, Center for Child and Family Well-Being, American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). She provided an update on the early stages of FFPSA, which was signed into law in early 2018. FFPSA reforms federal child welfare financing streams, allowing states to use dollars for preventative services for children who are at risk of entering child welfare system, with the goal of reducing placement of children outside of their homes. Ann led us though a detailed discussion on the Federal and State stakeholders’ work to-date on the FFPSA. As a new way of doing business, only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, is poised to go live with FFPSA on Oct. 1. Other states intend to follow suit, but we all acknowledge that today there’s no state’s track record to emulate or a playbook to review.   

Here are some of the topics that states are grappling with:

While FFPSA is written to give states room to innovate within the law, partnering with the legal and judicial community is tantamount to success.  Agencies must engage with their attorneys and juvenile and drug courts early and often throughout implementation.  Have discussions with judges about the culture shift required by FFPSA: The goal is to keep kids safe in their home. Expect lively conversations around liability.

Evidence-based programs (EBPs) are part and parcel to FFPSA. But, what EBP will work for certain populations?  When such rigor is required, can agencies adapt their existing EBPs or take program interventions that exist and replicate them? Many of the successful EBPs have focused on parent/child maternal attachment therapies; however, much work remains on this topic.

How about financing? Agencies must evaluate existing programs to understand both their cost and efficacy. There is a lack of clarity around how agencies should handle additional funding streams, and, across the country, payment systems discrepancies are reaching a point of crisis. State and local jurisdictions will be focused on getting the financial aspects right.

Community-based agency partnerships are absolutely key to the success of FFPSA. Do we have the right number and right quality of providers necessary to offer the correct services? Can we accelerate the provider accreditation process? Agencies must include community-based providers in FFPSA planning. Agencies will need them, so give them a seat at the table.

Child Welfare organizations need to strengthen their interagency partnership with Medicaid and Maternal Health agencies. Medicaid directors have limited awareness of FFPSA and are overwhelmed with their workload and thin budgets. Would social determinants of health provide a successful framework to engage Medicaid directors?  Again, another key stakeholder group who is necessary to the planning and execution of FFPSA.

This is exciting new legislation, and implemented properly, FFPSA can help drive improved outcomes for the health, well-being, and safety of our country’s children.  HSITAG has its eye on the ball!  Join us in the discussion.


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