On February 9th of this year, the Family First Prevention Services Act was put into effect by Congress and signed by the president, changing the future of foster care and shining a light on the incredibly positive effects that organizations like SOS Illinois are having on children in foster care.
This blog is the first in a four-part series about the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) where we’ll take a look at how it closely relates with our mission here at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. In the following three parts, we’ll dive deep into how it affects foster care and child welfare across the country, how we at SOS Illinois are already practicing the policies and guidelines put forth in the FFPSA, and what the future can look like for children in foster care and beyond thanks to this major piece of legislation being passed in the United States.
What Foster Care Funding Looked Like Before the Family First Prevention Services Act
Prior to the FFPSA being passed in February of 2018, foster care organizations could only use Title IV-E funds to assist with costs of maintenance for eligible children in foster care as well as administrative expenses used to manage the programs, training for staff, Foster Parents, adoption assistance and kinship guardianship assistance.
More Options for Children Eligible for Foster Care
Thanks to the passing of the FFPSA, any state, territories, or tribe with an approved Title IV-E plan has the option to use funds for preventative services such as in-home parent skill-based programs, mental health services, and substance abuse prevention and treatment services to allow children eligible for foster care to stay with their parents or relatives.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Model Comes to Life in the FFPSA
Another a growing priority is to ensure that children in at-risk environments do not enter the foster care system. Since January 2012, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois has been providing “in-home family services” to both children and families in the DCFS system, as well as to children and families outside of the DCFS system. The Family First Prevention Services Act opens up a new foundation for foster care across the country and brings forth the model and mission that SOS Illinois has focused on from the very beginning.
Placing the Importance on Family Foster Homes
The FFPSA looks to reduce the use of group care for children in foster care, instead focusing on the importance of family foster homes. While there are very few exceptions, the US Federal Government will no longer reimburse states for children that are placed in group care settings for more than two weeks.
Importance Placed on Smaller Environments
In addition to limiting group care use, the Family First Prevention Services Act will only allow federal reimbursement if there are six children or less in a foster home. This ensures that the focus on a family-like environment remains intact in looking out for the best interests of children in foster care.
Foster Care Homes Must Be in Approved Settings
A particular treatment model known as the trauma-informed model must be used, and each foster care home setting must employ registered or licensed nursing staff along with other licensed clinical staff.
Shifting Towards Family Foster Care Nationwide
In an effort to ensure the best possible environments for children in foster care, the Family First Prevention Services Act places specific requirements on providers in order for a setting to qualify as a residential treatment program and receive reimbursement. Some of these requirements include:
- Licensed by at least one of the approved accrediting bodies
- Utilize a trauma-informed treatment model and includes service of clinical needs
- Registered or licensed nursing staff must provide care within their scope of practice and be on-site and available 24/7
- Include family members in the treatment process if possible and document the extent of their involvement
- Offer at least six months of support after the child in foster care is discharged
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is a Designated Qualified Residential Treatment Program
At SOS Illinois, our mission has always been to provide loving, nurturing homes and a family-like environment for children in foster care. As such, the requirements put into place by the Family First Prevention Services Act are a perfect fit with our model of care.
Not only are the children in our care placed with full-time Foster Parents and a dedicated and supportive staff, but siblings are kept together and homes in our Villages never have more than six children. Our Village environments allow children to reach their full potential and gain confidence, trust, and a renewed sense of hope.
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is also extremely proud to have received our COA accreditation. The Council on Accreditation received recognition from the Federal Government as a designated, approved accrediting body, which allows SOS Illinois to be deemed qualified as a residential treatment program in accordance with the FFPSA.
Check back later for Part II where we’ll discuss how this act affects foster care and child welfare across the country.
For the full list of qualification requirements for foster care facilities, visit the National Conference of State Legislators.