Family First Prevention Services Act

The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018. This act reforms the federal child welfare financing streams, Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The bill aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training. It also seeks to improve the well-being of children already in foster by incentivizing states to reduce placement of children in congregate care.1

Several additional key provisions in the legislation are the following:

  • Each state seeking to access the allotted funds must complete a state-wide needs assessment which must be completed no later than 1 October 2020 before receiving federal authorization for the re-allocated Title IV-E funding
  • Prevention services are to be based on a “pay for outcomes” initiative meaning that continued funding for prevention services are tied to outcomes, specifically a reduction in the utilization of existing foster care by reducing the need for child removals
  • Mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services shall be funded for no more than 12 months after case opening
  • In-home parent skills training shall be funded for no more than 12 months after case opening
  • Elimination of time limit for family reunification services while in foster care and permitting time-limited family reunification services when a child returns home from foster care – effectively ending the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act permanency guidelines
  • In the case of a child who has been returned home, the services and activities shall only be provided during the 15-month period that begins on the date that the child returns home.

In their review of the federal legislation, the news outlet, the Chronicle of Social Change, reports three major targets of the child welfare community funding to address service needs with these being: Services to address mental health challenges, substance abuse treatment, and in-home parent skill-based programs.2  The Annie E. Casey Foundation was fulsome in its praise of the passage of the bill. They reported that the passage of the bill “Extends the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program’s independent living services to assist former foster youth up to age 23 (currently available to youth between ages 18-21) and extends eligibility for education and training vouchers for these youth to age 26 (currently only available to youth up to age 23).”3  The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities highlighted a key issue directly related to various states’ efforts regarding improving foster home quality.  The Alliance reported with passage of the bill that it will “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.”4

Below are links to summaries of the bill.


1 Torres, K. and Muthur, R. (n.d.). Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

2 A Complete Guide to the Family First Prevention Services Act. (2018, February 26). Retrieved from

3 Summaries of the Family First Prevention Services Act by the Children's Defense Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved from


title-inside title-centered