The new budget signed by President Trump is being hailed for one act that finally funds initiatives to help at-risk families to prevent them from losing custody of their children. The Family First Prevention Services Act was passed quietly in new legislation alongside the Federal budget, with the goal of preventing children from entering foster care. The act importantly offers states matching funds for programs addressing mental health, substance abuse, family counseling, and parent skills training, all with a focus on supporting families and helping them stay together.
This Act, experts say, restructures the child welfare system by allowing states to use federal matching funds for programs addressing mental health, substance abuse, family counseling, and parent skills training — to keep at-risk children from ever entering the foster care system in the first place.
Usually, new programs of this scope, have funding limits that they outgrow. However, this new Act is built to be funded indefinitely, amending the Social Security Act to open up funding for families at risk of entering the foster care system. Significant funding will be available for states, even if their programs grow in the future.
States that may have been using the money for foster care now can free up the money to offer supportive services for families that are struggling and need critical services.
Research shows that kids do best with their families, but services have not generally been in place to keep them there when problems need to be addressed. With the opioid crisis raging, nearly half a million children are in foster care in the US. This number is expected to spike as few services are available to those most vulnerable to the opioid crisis, especially as the use of fentanyl becomes more common.
The Family First Services Act can bridge the gap between services for those with opioid use disorders and the services they need to keep their families together. There is even an ability to fund more treatment services to help meet these goals. That’s excellent news for families, but there are still many public services needed to help people with addiction disorders.