Child welfare systems across the nation are at a pivotal point of change as a result of the Family First Prevention Services Act. The change is even more significant in North Carolina, as we have state-initiated system reform efforts underway as result of Rylan’s Law. Both laws require significant shifts in fiscal, administrative and programmatic functions in child welfare services. More information about Family First and Rylan’s Law can be found here.
The Family First Prevention Services Act passed in Feb. 2018, and is the most sweeping legislation to impact federal child welfare financing and programs in decades. Family First has many provisions, but the primary ones are prevention services and limitations on funding for congregate care. This law continues to allow states to cover costs related to foster care and adoption assistance, however, states may opt to extend federal (IV-E) reimbursement to cover certain expenditures and services related to preventing foster care placements. This includes evidence-based mental health, substance abuse and parenting services to keep children safely with their families.
Family First also includes provisions that will limit IV-E foster care spending for children in congregate care settings. This means that existing IV-E funding for children and youth in group settings will be limited to the first two weeks of placement, unless the child/youth has certain specified permissible needs that necessitate a group placement.
Our federal partners have given states the option of implementing prevention and congregate care provisions as early as Oct. 2019, and up to Sept. 2021. North Carolina has opted to extend implementation of both provisions through Sept. 2021, allowing adequate time to plan and implement services that are specific to the needs of children and families in North Carolina.
Since our initial Family First stakeholder meeting in summer 2018, the NC Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the University of Chicago – Chapin Hall, with funding from the Duke Endowment, to receive expert implementation support for the prevention and congregate care provisions. To learn more about how our teams work, take a look at our charter.
Each month, child welfare leaders from across the department, along with experts from Chapin Hall, meet with cross-disciplinary groups of internal partners and external stakeholders to assess North Carolina’s readiness for Family First. Ultimately, this work will result in the creation of a prevention services plan that will allow more children to safely stay in their homes while their families receive services to prevent children from being removed in to foster care. Additionally, our leaders and teams are exploring the congregate care funding limitation in Family First to identify new ways that we can better meet the needs children in congregate care. Our meeting agenda and materials can be found here.
The department, along with county partners and key community stakeholders, are working to ensure that children and families have the services they need to keep their children at home safely and reduce entry into foster care. If children must enter care, we are also developing new strategies to ensure children are in the most family-like setting, or are receiving appropriate services in congregate care, when necessary. We encourage you to visit this page often for updates about Family First implementation in North Carolina.