By Emily Anderson, Kentucky Youth Advocates inten

On October 1, 2019, Kentucky began implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (FFPSA) to provide better services for families at risk of entering the child welfare system and to improve the well-being of those children that are already in foster care. In order to make the transition to this act easier, Congress has passed the Family First Transition and Support Act.

The provisions of the federal Family First Transition Act are important as they will help Kentucky to overcome some of the barriers to implementation of the Family First Act and to advance services to Kentucky’s kids and families in need. There are three main aids that this act will provide to make the transition easier for Kentucky. We feel it is important to clarify these updates and how we believe it will benefit Kentucky’s kids.

Phase in the 50 percent requirement for well-supported programs

What does this mean?

The federal Family First Act requires that at least 50 percent of the state claims for foster care prevention funding be for “well-supported” programs, which is the highest of the evidence-based categories for programming. With the passage of the Family First Transition Act, the requirement will be delayed through fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2022 and 2023, spending on “supported” and well-supported” programs will count towards the 50 percent requirement of the Family First Act. In 2024, the 50 percent requirement for “well-supported” will take full effect.

Why is it good for Kentucky’s kids?

Allowing Kentucky to receive reimbursement for a wider range of prevention programs while the federal evidence-based clearinghouse is built will allow for our state to immediately implement a wide variety of programs that will help Kentucky’s kids. Children and families will be able to benefit from these new programs without delay while well-supported programs are found and added to Kentucky’s toolbox for helping kids. This further ensures that Kentucky’s kids are afforded the highest quality interventions by allowing Kentucky the time and money to ensure that these programs are found and implemented.

Transition funding to help Kentucky implement the Family First Act

What does this mean?

The Family First Transition Act recognizes that there are a lot of costs associated with the implementation of the Family First Act. In order to make the transition easier, the Family First Transition Act will provide a total of $500 million for one-time, flexible funding to go towards implementation. This money can be used for start-up costs, waiver transition, and proving foster care safety and quality. Three percent of the money will be set aside for tribes and the remainder of the funds will be allocated using the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services funding formula without match or reservations. This formula gives a base allotment of $70,000 with the remainder of the money distributed using a variable formula that takes into account the child population under the age of 21 and the complement of the state per capita income compared to the U.S. per capita income.

Why is this good for Kentucky’s kids?

Any transition to new programs and systems is costly. With this transition funding however, Kentucky will have the available funds to immediately help kids and families, without having to draw from other sources. Kentucky’s kids and families can immediately reap the benefits of these programs since the state will have funding on hand to support implementation.

Short-term funding certainty for states with expiring waivers

What does this mean?

Twenty-two states, the District of Columbia, and one tribe have child welfare waivers that allow them to use funding on families or for services that are not under the traditional foster care program. In 2011, Congress enacted a law that states those waivers needed to sunset by the end of FY 2019. In order to ease this transition, the Family First Transition Act will provide temporary grants to states where the expiring waivers would cause them to experience a significant loss in funds. In fiscal year 2020, states will receive not less than 90 percent of the amount that was going to be received under the waiver in fiscal year 2019. In fiscal year 2021, this amount will be reduced to 75 percent of the amount that they would have received under the waiver in fiscal year 2019.

Why is this good for Kentucky’s kids?

With the grant transition funding, programs that are currently funded under the waivers will continue to have monetary support as the transition to the Family First Act occurs. Kids and families that are benefitting from these services will still receive the benefits as the system transitions to even better programming under the Family First Act. Additionally, the money that was being spent outside of the foster care program will come back into foster care funding once the waivers are phased out, providing even more funding and effective services for the kids and families of Kentucky.

Children and teens involved in the child welfare system do best in families, where there is a safe and stable environment that supports their growth and well-being. Passage of the bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 took important steps to realign federal funding to ensure children in foster care are placed with families and to prioritize critical supports, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, in-home parent skill-based programs, and family therapy, that can help prevent the need for foster care in the first place. Learn more in this toolkit on the federal Family First Act.