Family First Prevention Services Act Overview

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), first drafted by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) became law as part of the congressional budget deal on February 9, 2018. This legislation could drastically change the funding paradigm for the child welfare system. A summary of the act is outlined in greater detail below.

There are still many unanswered questions on how the Act will be implemented in Massachusetts and across the country. CLM is working with our federal and state partners to fully understand its implications.

Here is a summary of what we know so far:

  • 2/9/2018 FFPSA was signed into law
  • 04/12/2018 The Administration on Children and Families released it’s first notice around the law, outlining deadlines and rollout of the new law. The document can be viewed here on the ACF website. 
  • 07/09/2018 ACF released that Title IV-E Plan Amendments and a delay in effective date. The document can be viewed here on the ACF website. 
  • 11/30/2018 The Administration on Children and Families released its first preliminary list of services and programs for funding under the FFPSA, guidance on interpretation and implementation of the Family First Act, and a number of forms for state decision making. The document can be viewed here on the ACF website.
    • The bureau will be holding informational calls on this guidance list twice this month, December 17 from 2:30-4:00pm ET or December 18 from 12-1:30pm ET. 
    • Call-in Information: is: 888-391-9602 with the Passcode: 13193#.
    • If you experience any difficulties joining a call, please contact Cheryl Speed at

If you have any questions or concerns and would like more information about the Family First Prevention Services Act, please email us at

Family First Prevention Services Act

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) redirects the federal child welfare funds from Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act to be used for mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parenting skills in hopes that these services will reduce the number of children entering foster care. Previously, Title IV-E funds were only allowable for spending on foster care placements and for assistance to adoptive families. The Act also seeks to encourage states to reduce the placement of children in congregate care.

Below is a brief summary of each section of the Act.

Part I. – Prevention Activities under Title IV-E (Section. 50711)

What types of services are we talking about? 

There are three-time limited (up to 12 months/one year) areas of services where states can spend Title IV -E funds:

  • Services to address mental health challenges.
  • Substance abuse treatment.
  • In-home parent skill-based programs

Who is eligible for these new services?

  • Qualified candidates for foster care. Children identified as safe to remain safely at home or in kinship placement with receipt of services
  • Children in foster care who are parenting
  • Parents or caregivers where services are needed to prevent entry into care.

To obtain funds, the State needs to maintain a prevention plan for each candidate:

  • States must maintain a prevention plan for the child to remain safely at home or live with a kin caregiver that lists the services or programs to be provided.

A State must ensure that all services are evidence-based in order to qualify for funding:

  • Services must be trauma-informed and should be promising, supported, well-supported practices as modeled by the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse for child welfare
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services to issue guidance on practice criteria and pre-approved services no later than October 1, 2018

Part II. Enhanced Support Under Title IV-B: (Sections 50721, 50722, 50723)

What about Title IV-B funds?

  • The Act eliminates time limit for family reunification services (to allow 15 months of family reunification services for children who return home from foster care, and to remove the 15-) that month limitation for a child in foster care to receive reunification services)
  • It requires states to implement electronic interstate case processing system to help expedite placement of children in foster care by FY 2027
  • Reauthorizes Regional Partnership Grants through FY 2021

Part III. Miscellaneous (Sections. 50731, 50732, 50733)

How does the Act affect model licensing standards for foster family homes?

  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must establish model licensing standards for placement in a relative foster family home by 10/1/2019.
  • Title IV-E agencies must provide HHS, by 4/1/2019, specific and detailed information about foster family home licensing standards and whether they meet model licensing standards identified by HHS.
  • Limit on number of children in a foster family home: Revises the definition of foster family home to limit a home to six children. Allows title IV-E agencies to make exceptions to the numeric limitation for parenting youth to remain with their child, to allow siblings to stay together, to allow a child with a meaningful relationship with a family to stay with that family, and to allow a family with special training or skills to care for a child with severe disabilities
  • States have to develop a statewide plan to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities

Part IV. Ensuring the Necessity of a Placement that is not in a Foster Family Home (Sections 50741, 50742, 50743, 50744, 50745, 50746)

How does the Act affect congregate care?

  • Title IV-E reimbursement for group homes (or “child care institutions”) will only be available for two weeks unless the child is in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), a setting that specializes in prenatal or parenting support, or supervised independent living for youth over 18.
  • A “qualified residential treatment program” (QRTP). This means a program that has a trauma-informed treatment model designed to address the needs, including clinical needs as appropriate, of children with serious emotional or behavioral disorders or disturbances and, with respect to a child, can implement the treatment identified for the child by the assessment of the child required. In addition, has registered or licensed nursing staff and other licensed clinical staff who provide care within the scope of their practice as defined by state law, are on-site according to the treatment trauma informed model outlined here; and are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The requirements do not require a QRTP to acquire nursing and behavioral health staff solely through means of a direct employer to employee relationship.
  • States may delay the congregate care provisions for up to two years while forfeiting reimbursement for prevention services.

Part V. Continuing Support for Child and Family Services (Sections 50751, 50752, 50753)

Does the Act help to improve foster care services?

  • The Act provides $8 million to be appropriated for competitive grants to support recruitment and retention of high quality foster families
  • Reauthorizes and revises the Stephanie Tubbs Jones child welfare services program, the Court Improvement program, and the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
  • Expands until age 23 Chaffee Foster Care Independent Programs supports for states that elected to extend eligibility for foster care to age 21 and expands the use of education and training vouchers for youth until 26.

Part VI. Continuing Incentives to States to Promote Adoption and Legal Guardianship (Section 50761)

How does it encourage permanency through adoption and legal guardianship?

  • Reauthorizes the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payment Program -a program which recognizes improved performance in helping children and youth in foster care find permanent homes through adoption and legal guardianship.

Part VII. Technical Corrections (Section 50771, 50772)

How does it encourage permanency for children under the age of 5 who receive IV-E or IV-B services?

  • The Act amends the state plan requirement under Title IV-B to describe ways to reduce length of time to permanency for children under the age of 5 and to address developmental needs of all vulnerable children under the age of 5.

Part VIII. Ensuring States Reinvest Savings Resulting from Increases in Adoption Assistance. (Section 50781, 50782)

  • Delays Fostering Connections implementation of federal assistance for adoption of special needs children
  • Children with special needs under 2 years old will be eligible for assistance if they meet existing requirements
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must study and report to Congress and to HHS on the extent to which states are reinvesting savings resulting from the increases in adoption assistance.

The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse is responsible for reviewing research on programs and services intended to provide enhanced support to children and families in accordance with the Family First Prevention Services Act. The Clearinghouse will rate programs and services as promising, supported, and well-supported practices. Click here to learn more!