Voices from the Field

Reforming and Improving the Child Welfare System to Meet Needs of Children

On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the historic and bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act as a part of the bipartisan budget agreement. This landmark piece of legislation aims to help keep children safely with their families when they come to the attention of the child welfare system, and when placement in foster care is needed, it provides an assurance of quality care for children in the most family-like setting appropriate for their special needs.

What is so historic about Family First is that this new law provides targeted funding and support specifically for child abuse prevention. The goal is to keep children from ever having to enter into the child welfare system, so this law provides resources for prevention programs that aim to do just that.  However, should children need the foster care system, this new law strengthens the programs available to ensure the best possible care for kids.

So what prevention measures will this new law cover? By 2020, this new law specifically funds evidence-based prevention programs for:

  • Mental health and substance abuse prevention treatment services
  • In-home parent skill-based services

These services may be provided for up to a year to help children who at imminent risk of entering the foster care system, their parents and relatives to assist the children, and pregnant or parenting teens. The law recognizes states will likely need to make adjustments to their current plans to establish these prevention services to keep children safely in families and in the care that meets their needs, and allows for some state flexibility in defining their safety services.

The new law also reauthorizes and updates the Regional Partnership Grant program, which funds state and regional grantees (including nonprofit providers such as CACs) seeking to provide evidence-based services to prevent child maltreatment related to substance abuse. Even more, the new law requires states to have statewide plans to track and prevent child maltreatment fatalities, one of the recommendations from the final report of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities.

NCA worked with advocates to support passage of this new law and are excited to continue working on its implementation.  We will keep you updated on the latest.


Denise Edwards is NCA’s Director of Government Affairs and a veteran legislative staffer serving with member offices of the U.S. Congress.