May is National Foster Care Month and we’re celebrating state and federal legislative changes that will positively impact youth in foster care in 2018 and beyond.

Two major legislative reforms happened in recent months, first in Congress, and then in the Kentucky legislature. We discussed here how House Bill 1, which received bipartisan support by the Kentucky Senators and Representatives, will help ensure more kids in Kentucky have safe, permanent homes. These changes will be implemented over varying lengths of time, but as we have come to learn, change can be positive, even when slow.

Family First Prevention Services Act

In February, in a surprise to many advocates, Congress incorporated a significant piece of child welfare legislation in a final spending bill approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. According to the Annie E Casey Foundation, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was a labor of love for which hundreds of organizations came together to focus on the well-being of children, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, expressed support. This piece of legislation makes several positive changes to the child welfare system that directly affects children and families.

Family First will restructure how the federal government spends money on child welfare in states. For example, this legislation makes available earlier in the process some federal money that agencies used to have to wait to spend on foster care. Now it can be spent on critical services that can prevent the need for foster care — from in-home training and family therapy to mental health and substance abuse programs.

The legislation will also ensure more children in foster care are placed with families by directing federal reimbursements to support placements in families and ending reimbursements when children are inappropriately placed in group facilities.

There are currently more than 9,000 children in out-of-home care in Kentucky and thousands more children being raised by relatives as a result of abuse and neglect. Children in Kentucky and across the nation deserve to live in safe, loving families and these changes on the federal level, and the state level, will get us to our goal of every kid in Kentucky in a family.

Learn more about federal policy change prioritized by national partners through the CHAMPS Campaign here.