Credit hours:

Course Summary

The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (aka Family First) transforms federal child welfare financing streams to allow funding for services to families whose children may be at risk of entering foster care. It includes the most significant changes to federal child welfare finance structures since the establishment of the Title IV-E entitlement in 1980. The law aims to prevent unnecessary removal of children from their families by allowing federal funding for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skills training. Further, the law attempts to improve the well-being of children in foster care by discontinuing federal reimbursement when a child's placement in a congregate care setting is unnecessary. The law also provides for increased support for young people as they transition from foster care to adulthood. This two part training explains key provisions within the Family First Act in order to provide a broader understanding of the Family First Act and how it impacts both the child welfare and foster care systems. While Module 1 provides a more general overview, Module 2 places special emphasis on “prevention.” Estimated completion time: 2.5 hours

In this course, you can expect to learn:

Learning Objectives - In this course, you will:

  • Develop a broader understanding of prevention services as they relate to The Family First Prevention Services Act 

  • Learn how prevention services and more comprehensive reunification services provide a higher probability of keeping families intact

  • Better understand the important supporting role mental health services play in keeping families safe, stable, and permanent

Step 1 (Webinar and Text 70 min)

Preventing Unnecessary Removal of Children From Their Families - Watch this webinar on prevention hosted by The National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council (NFCYAPC). Hear first-hand from young people who experienced foster care, and learn ways to improve child welfare practice and policy. This webinar includes recommendations on implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, as well as moving our Child Welfare System into the 21st Century. View the statement and detailed recommendations in PDF format here.

*The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council convenes to provide federal stakeholders with relevant and timely information regarding policies and procedures that impact children and families throughout the country. The Council represents a collective viewpoint of youth and alumni who have personal/lived experience in the foster care system. The Council advises by:

  • Using their experiences in foster care to identify and inform priorities, and offer ideas to improve child welfare policy

  • Educating policymakers and other stakeholders about their varied experiences in foster care

  • Analyzing effectiveness of programs and policies based on the experiences of youth in foster care

Step 2 (5 min)

The Family First Act and Mental Health Services - The passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 now provides states, tribes, and territories with the option to use federal child welfare funds for prevention activities, including mental health services. These services can be provided to children at imminent risk of placement into foster care, pregnant or parenting youth in foster care, and parents and/or relative caregivers of children at imminent risk. As mental health services are being implemented across the country, it’s critical for leaders to consider the perspectives of individuals who have first-hand experience with the child welfare system. Read this perspective paper from Family Voices United and see how people with lived experience in the child welfare system responded to the following question: “Would mental health services have helped your family stay together, or shortened time in the child welfare system?” 

*(Optional) The Family Voices United (FVU) campaign brings together the voices of young people, birth parents, and relative caregivers with lived experience in the child welfare system to drive change in foster care. Learn more about FVU here.

Step 3 (5 min)

The Need for Prevention Services - Read Isaiah’s (foster alumni from idaho) firsthand account of how prevention services could have prevented the breakup of his family, and his entry into foster care (PDF).

Step 4 (30 min)

Mental Health Supports - Listen to this podcast as Family Voices United members share their experiences on how mental health support can make a difference for families. Learn how constituents are taking action, getting involved, and building the movement!

Step 5 (5 min)

  • Join the Discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:

Should children at imminent risk of placement into foster care be allowed to stay with birth families/parent(s) while the parent(s) receive prevention services (e.g. mental health and substance use support/treatment)?

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Course Discussion

markmcnair's picture

markmcnair said:

This should probably be taken on a case by case basis in my opinion.
khone1's picture

khone1 said:

The comment around " we cannot focus on child welfare in a vacuum" is key.
khone1's picture

khone1 said:

The comment around " we cannot focus on child welfare in a vacuum" is key.
kgrobart's picture

kgrobart said:

There is no straight yes or no for this and should be evaluated by each case.
TrentDHall's picture

TrentDHall said:

It's hard to say for sure, as each case is different. If the workers assigned to the case have spent time with the family and believe that the child is in danger, I think the child should be removed. However, I think removing children should be the last resort. The trauma associated with removal can have detrimental, lifelong effects.'s picture

sarahhmiller197... said:

this is too nuanced and case-by-case to be a blanket "yes" or "no" response. Each case must be looked at on its own merits and determine what is truly in the best interests of the child(ren) involved, especially in cases involving substantial neglect and / or abuse. Of course it would be ideal for child(ren) to remain with their birth families if it safe for them, but that is not always the case,.'s picture said:

In my opinion - there is no way to make this a simple "yes" or "no" response. Ideally - yes - children should be allowed to remain with their Bio parents while services and supports and trainings are provided and the parents work through a case plan of improvement. But - if there is a history of or imminent risk of abuse while in the bio home, it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to be removed to a safer home.
Kphillips's picture

Kphillips said:

I think it would vary from case to case. I don't think a child should be taken right away if they are not in danger of being harmed in any way. I think that the parent should have a plan put in place by the courts that needs to be followed. Parenting classes, therapy, and frequent visits and monitoring should be put in place. If a child needs to be removed from the home, I think a better system needs to be put in place of kinship of placement. It would be much less traumatizing for a child to be placed with family or someone known to the family.
MsPorter's picture

MsPorter said:

I believe that the Child Welfare system is too quick to remove children from their homes. I think that there should be places that can assist the families in an out patient setting that will allow the children to remain in their homes. If there is not a way to give rehab services without going inpatient then there should be places where parents are allowed to bring their children with them.
Jballard's picture

Jballard said:

I think just as was stated in the first video. If this can be done in a safe way, then that is the point. It also is a good lesson for the children that the community cares about them and are willing to come along side and share resources. This would really minimize the trauma in our youth and a lot of our adults today.