Family First Act will mean stronger, healthier families in Wayne County and across Ohio
On Feb. 9, 2018, the Family First Prevention Services Act became federal law.
This new legislation reforms federal child welfare financing to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system.
Ohio is required to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act by October. This act has the potential to transform Children Services and allow for a greater focus on supporting families and keeping them intact.
Wayne County Children Services welcomes the opportunity to further persevere in its mission of “strengthening, preserving and empowering families, while ensuring that all children are protected from abuse and neglect."
The primary goal of the Family First Prevention Services Act is to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for evidenced-based mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skills training.
Foster families: Child welfare agencies call for more foster families
Additionally, Family First seeks to reduce a youth’s length of placement in foster homes or residential facilities by strengthening family finding methods and prioritizing placement of children in kinship homes.
Historically, federal funds referenced were not available until after a child was placed in the temporary custody of the agency. This led to services being identified and implemented in a reactionary fashion.
With Family First, agency workers will identify needs of the family, and access funding for services to minimize the risk of harm to the child. This is intended to decrease the likelihood that the child will be placed in the temporary custody of the agency, thus reducing trauma to the child and family unit.
The program also allows for support for relative caregivers when out-of-home placement is needed. Historically funds provided to family and kin were limited. Kin can be defined as individuals that are important in a child’s life but are not related by blood. This can include teachers, clergy and church friends, coaches and neighbors, to name a few.
This new initiative allows for the kinship home to receive financial assistance as well as a specific assigned caseworker for needs of their home.
How Children Services supports families: As we grow closer to the October rollout of Family First in Ohio, Wayne County Children Services recognizes the importance of working with local service providers, schools, and law enforcement to ensure the entire community is educated on Family First, and to clarify what programs will be needed or enhanced to service the community.
To that end, Wayne County Children Services has begun reaching out to local providers such as law enforcement, mental health providers, daycares and the local school districts, giving them brief introductions to the changes that will be taking place, and offering to come and speak to their staffs in more detail about Family First.
The Center of Excellence, through Case Western Reserve University, is working with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to ensure all counties have access to the resources and evidenced-based programs as required by Family First.
The Center of Excellence will help develop workforce capacity, which is part of Ohio's strategy to increase the behavioral health workforce in our communities. The Center of Excellence will provide training, coaching and technical assistance. This will be a theme of our work moving forward, including supporting the existing workforce.
Wayne County has a strong and reputable group of mental health providers. Wayne County Children Services is fortunate to partner with these agencies in serving the needs of our clients. As the saying goes, 'It takes a village.'
As we embrace that philosophy of supporting and stabilizing families, we are embarking on an exciting opportunity for the children and families of our community.
A great deal of research and groundwork has been done to bring us the Family First Act. Our community will reap the benefits of stronger, healthier families .
The Federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA):
Making Historic Reforms to the Nation's Children's Services System