In a widely unanticipated development, the U.S. House included Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) language in the House Continuing Resolution (CR), which passed out of the House on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

The FFPSA language included in the House bill, “uses the base bill H.R. 5456, passed by the House in June 2016 and a subset of bills passed again by the House in June 2017.” In addition, there are changes to the bill that were made as a result of conferring with advocates, including some requested by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ network, when the bill was last handled in the Senate, which was in the fall of 2016 through the 21st Century CURES Act. An overview of the provisions is provided below.

Congressional staffers representing the majority party have communicated that the bill language in the House CR is the result of bi-cameral, bi-partisan efforts. Therefore, it is not anticipated that there will be changes made to the FFPSA language in the Senate CR.

In terms of the process, with the passage of the House CR, the Senate will now write and pass its version. Changes were expected, as Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer publicly stated that the House CR is “dead on arrival” in the Senate. Since the passage of a CR in the Senate requires a vote of 60, “yes” votes from both Republican and Democrat Senators are required. If the Senate CR has provisions that differ from the House-passed CR, the House must vote on the Senate CR. If the House passes the Senate version without any changes, the bill will go to the President for signature. All of this process must happen before 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 9 to avoid a government shutdown.

Key New Development in Senate

As this update was being written, the Senate agreed on a two-year budget deal. It appears that this means the Senate will be able to extract the controversial provision for increased defense spending, with no correlating increase in non-defense spending, from the House CR. Most likely, this new development in the Senate greatly increases the likelihood for passage of a Senate CR. The Senate CR will differ from the House version, with the anticipated addition of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Act (MIECHV) and other provisions that are expected to be non-controversial.

Considering the political and policy issues landscape, and that the FFPSA language appears to have bi-cameral and bi-partisan support, it is not anticipated that the FFPSA provisions in this bill would become a negotiating point for passage of the CR or a deciding factor for the CR vote of any Member of Congress in either party.

The FFPSA language in the CR was described to the Alliance as being the final version that will be considered. If the CR does not pass this week, it seems there is little opportunity for the FFPSA to pass as a standalone bill.

About the Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Program

The Alliance inquired about the status of the Waiver Program relative to a potential passage of the FFPSA. As a result, it is important to note that, while the FFPSA language was informed by practices and programs that were successfully implemented through the Waiver Program, passage of the FFPSA would not be viewed as eliminating the need for the flexibility to jurisdictions that the Waiver Program provides. Therefore, with the October 2019 deadline for the current Waiver Program coming quickly, the Alliance will be working with Congress to ensure a mechanism that maintains the flexibility that the current Waiver Program provides.

Overview of Provisions for FFPSA in the House Continuing Resolution Dated Feb. 5, 2016

This overview of provisions for FFPSA includes the indication of “(NEW)” for any changes to in the FFPSA language that were included in the last Senate version of FFPSA language, which appeared in the 21st Century CURES Act (fall 2016) and new language appearing for the first time in the House CR. For reference, the FFPSA provisions, within the CR are detailed on pages 357-495.

The FFPSA provisions in the House and Senate CR include:

Title VI - Child and Family Services and Support
Family First Prevention Services Act, Social Impact Partnerships, and Related Financial Offsets

Subtitle A – Family First Prevention Services Act
Chapter 1 – Investing in Prevention and Family Services
Subchapter A – Prevention Activities under Title IV-E

  • Allow title IV-E dollars to fund promising, supported, and well-supported mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment provided by a qualified clinician, and in-home parent skill-based programs, for up to 12 months for candidates for foster care and for pregnant or parenting foster youth. Services must be described as part the State’s plan and the child’s individual plan. The Secretary may waive the evaluation requirement for a well-supported practice if evidence of effectiveness is compelling. The services or programs to be provided to or on behalf of a child must be trauma-informed, and the Secretary will create a Clearinghouse of approved practices.
  • Require states electing to provide prevention services with IV-E dollars to demonstrate Maintenance of Effort (MOE) of state foster care prevention spending at FY2014 levels. (NEW) Small states with less than 200,000 children in the 2014 census can choose to base MOE on FY2014, FY2015, or FY2016 expenditures.
  • Clarify that the provision of prevention services to children residing with a kin caregiver does not disqualify a child from being eligible for IV-E foster care at a later date.
  • Clarify that territories are eligible for prevention funding.
  • Permit title IV–E foster care maintenance payment support, for up to 12 months, for a child in foster care who is placed with a parent in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility.
  • Provide 50% federal reimbursement for promising, supported, or well-supported kinship navigator programs.

Subchapter B - Enhanced Support Under Title IV-B

  • (CHANGE) Provide funding authority (instead of a grant process) to support requirement that states establish an electronic interstate processing system to expedite the interstate placement of children in foster care, or guardianship, or for adoption, where the Secretary prioritizes states not yet connected to the system. (NEW) Indian Tribes are exempt. Provides $5 million in grant funding to improve interstate placement of children.
  • Require HHS to continue regional partnership grants for five years, and would allow the grants to be used on a statewide basis and include partners other than state agencies only.

Subchapter C - Miscellaneous

  • Establish model licensing standards for relative foster family homes and require states to demonstrate that the state standards are in accord with the corresponding national model standards.
  • Require state child welfare agencies to more fully document the steps taken to track and prevent child maltreatment deaths, as well as explain how they are implementing a comprehensive plan to deal with this problem.
  • Change the formal heading of title IV-E to “Federal Payments for Foster Care, Prevention, and Permanency,” to reflect the authorization of title IV–E prevention services and programs included in the bill.

Chapter 2 - Ensuring the Necessity of a Placement that is not in a Foster Family Home

  • Limit federal payments for out-of-home placements that are not foster homes. After two weeks in placement, only “Specified Settings” would be eligible for federal foster care maintenance payments. Mandatory change takes effect Oct. 1, 2019. States may opt to delay the effective date for up to two years, which would also delay funding for prevention services for the same length of time.
  • Define “Specified Settings” as: Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs); programs for pregnant and parenting youth; independent living programs for youth 18 and older; and “settings providing high-quality residential care and supportive services to children and youth who have been found to be, or are at risk of becoming, sex trafficking victims.” Note: How a child or youth is assessed at becoming at risk of sex trafficking is not specified in the bill.
  • Specify that QRTP placement requires states to provide additional assessment, documentation, and oversight to justify such placements. QRTPs must be licensed and accredited, have a trauma-informed treatment model, facilitate and document family involvement and outreach, and provide at least 6 months post-discharge family-based aftercare support.
  • (NEW) Require that QRTPs have a registered or licensed nurse and other licensed clinical staff on-site “in accordance with the [QRTP’s] treatment model” and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (NEW) Nurses and behavioral health staff do not have to be employees of the QRTP.
  • (Change) Clarify that a state can continue to receive federal reimbursement for administrative expenses associated with overseeing a child placed in a congregate care setting for which the state will no longer receive federal maintenance payments.
  • Define foster family home as a home where a licensed foster parent resides with 6 or fewer foster children (with allowable exceptions), provide training for judges and legal personnel, and require states to assure new policies will not increase the state’s juvenile justice population nor result in inappropriate diagnoses.
  • (NEW) require states to have provisions to conduct criminal history and child abuse and neglect registry checks, including fingerprint-based checks, on any adult working in a child care institution, including group homes, residential treatment centers, shelters, or other congregate care settings. Effective Oct. 1, 2018. For flexibility, allows for the State to provide the Secretary with alternative criminal records checks the State conducts.
  • (NEW) recognizes that children should be placed with their siblings unless there is a finding by the court that such placement is contrary to their best interest.

Chapter 3 - Continuing Support for Foster Family Services

  • Provide a one-time appropriation in FY2018 (available through FY2022) of $8 million in competitive grants to states or tribes to support recruitment and retention of high-quality foster families.
  • Reauthorize the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, and Court Improvement Programs through each of FY2017-FY2021.
  • Give states the authority to use John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program funds for youth up to 23 years of age who have aged out of foster care, as long as the state has elected to extend federal title IV-E funds to children up to age 21 or comparable assistance with other non-title IV-E funds. Extends access to education and training vouchers to 26 years old (no more than five years total).

Chapter 4 - Continuing Incentives to States to Promote Adoption and Legal Guardianship

  • Continue state’s eligibility to earn incentive payments for adoption and legal guardianship programs each year from FY2016 to FY2020 and extend annual discretionary funding authority, at the current law annual level of $43 million, for each year from FY2017 to FY2021.

Chapter 5 - Technical Corrections

  • Rewrite provisions to require HHS to develop regulations concerning the categories of information that state child welfare agencies must be able to exchange with another state agency as well as federal reporting and data exchange required under applicable federal law.
  • Clarify that a state must describe in its title IV–B Child Welfare Services plan what it is doing to address the developmental needs of all vulnerable children under five years of age who receive benefits or services under the title IV–B programs or the title IV–E foster care and permanency program (not just children in foster care).

Chapter 6 - Ensuring States Reinvest Savings Resulting from Increase in Adoption Assistance

  • (CHANGE) Phase in title IV-E adoption assistance, part of Fostering Connections, by delaying assistance without meeting an income test for children with special needs who are who do not reach their second birthday in the fiscal year their adoption assistance agreement is signed, would require use of an income test for an additional six and a half years. Beginning on January 1, 2018 and through June 30, 2024, the income test would need to be applied for any child who is under the age of two when the adoption assistance agreement is signed, provided the child will not reach his/her second birthday before the last day of the fiscal year in which that agreement is signed. As of July 1, 2024, no income test would be used for purposes of determining a child’s eligibility for Title IV-E adoption assistance, regardless of the child’s age.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study whether states are complying with the requirement that they spend, for child welfare purposes, an amount equal to the amount of savings (if any) resulting from phasing out the income eligibility requirements for federal adoption assistance.

Subtitle B - Supporting Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results

Funds Social Impact Partnerships to meet certain goals in improving outcomes for children and families using evidence-based, effective interventions. Creates a Federal Interagency Council on Social Impact Partnerships and a Commission on Social Impact Partnerships. Appropriates $92 million in FY2018 to fund efforts under this subtitle.

(NEW) Subtitle C -Modernizing Child Support Enforcement Fees and Subtitle D -Increasing Efficiency of Prison Data Reporting

These changes in child support enforcement fees and incentive payments to prisons both help offset the cost of FFPSA. Note: These two new offsets, or “payfors,” are paired with the offsets derived from Chapter 2 of the bill language, “Ensuring the Necessity of a Placement that is not in a Foster Family Home,” from delaying the implementation of the Adoption Assistance program as articulated in Chapter 6 of the bill language, and from a “non-labeled, undescribed” health fund.

Contact the Alliance with Questions

Please note that the detailed overview of the FFPSA was assembled quickly. If you have a question or concern about its contents, or about the congressional process described in this update, contact Marlo Nash, senior vice president of public policy and mobilization at 202-429-0270.

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