State Outlines How New Services Will Prevent Children from Entering Foster Care
Outlining the expansion of mental health and substance use treatment and parenting skills services to prevent children from entering foster care, the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) submitted its plan to implement federal Family First Prevention Services Act provisions with an Oct. 1, 2019 start date. Utah is only the fourth child welfare agency in the nation to submit a plan to the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and one of only a small number of states that plan to implement the Family First Act on Oct. 1.
The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law on Feb. 9, 2018 as a part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (HR. 1892, Sens. Orrin Hatch R-Utah and Ron Wyden, D-Ore). The Act is the first major federal modernization of child welfare in three decades and authorizes new optional Title IV-E funding for time-limited prevention services for mental health care, substance abuse prevention and treatment and in-home parent skills based programs while limiting funding for congregate or residential services. Evidence-based prevention services and programs may be provided for children who are at risk for foster care and their parents or kin (extended family) caregivers. The overall goal of the Act is to prevent the need for foster care placement and the corresponding trauma of unnecessary parent-child separation.
According to Ann Silverberg Williamson, Department of Human Services executive director, “Utah is implementing the Family First Act’s transformative changes Oct. 1 to advance our values in service to children, families and communities. We are choosing not to spend another day with a system that perpetuates the way care has been delivered, but to seek better. This is a starting point to protect young lives and strengthen families in a manner that disrupts multi-generational cycles of hurt. We realize our goal of safe, thriving families will take partnership and continued adaptability that is responsive to distinct community and individual needs.”
Utah’s Title IV-E Prevention Plan creates the basic operational foundation for the state’s prevention of foster care through four evidence-based services currently approved through a national clearinghouse directed by the federal Administration. Most of these services are not currently available in Utah, so DHS has made investments in provider training and certification to build service capacity in the state to implement the Family First Act. From the national list of evaluated and approved programs, Utah’s selected services are Functional Family Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Parents as Teachers. This plan will begin the process of opening the door to further service expansion as additional evidence-based services are approved at the federal level. The plan will be available publicly after federal approval.
Diane Moore, Division of Child and Family Services director, said about the release of the Plan: “This is a tremendous time in child welfare. Utah’s core value of keeping children safe through the strengthening of their own families has placed our state in a strong position to lead the nation in these transformative efforts. The principles of the Family First Act are a reflection of the priority of family that our community already has. Together with our providers, we are expanding foster care prevention services to better address safety factors before children have to be separated from their parents. This strategic alignment of federal dollars with Utah’s values will enhance our work to support the children and families we serve.”