Cornhusker State becomes 10th approved under Family First Act
Nebraska is about to greatly enhance its prevention aimed at building up families and curbing the state’s use of foster care.
The state announced last week that the federal government has approved its plan to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act, a move that will allow Nebraska to tap into more money and services for families and children.
The 2018 law allows states to use Title IV-E federal child welfare entitlement funds for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care with federal approval. It also limits the amount of federal support for placing children in group homes or institutions.
It is considered a landmark reform of the child welfare system in the United States because it prods states to curtail their decadeslong focus on providing services to children and families only after the state takes severely abused or neglected children away from birth families. Under the new law, child welfare agencies are to work on the front end to support families in danger of losing their children.
The Family First Act was prompted by studies showing that children who enter the foster care system generally face a harder time than those who were in a similar situation but receive extra support to keep the family intact. In addition, children who are removed from their birth family and placed in group foster homes rather than with relatives fare worse than those placed in family-like foster homes.
With Nebraska’s approval, the state is free to establish and strengthen partnerships with agencies and institutions both inside and outside the state. For example, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services plans to work more closely with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation to study and improve its prevention efforts.
“It is critically important that Nebraska continues a focus on preventative services,” said Stephanie Beasley, the director of children and family services at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “With the implementation of [Family First] the State will have even more tools to provide for the well-being of children and families in Nebraska.”
Nebraska, which submitted its plan in October 2019, is the 10th state to be approved for the IV-E prevention funding. The rest are: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. The District of Columbia was actually the first system to receive approval.
Another eight states and two Native American tribes have submitted their federal prevention plans: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia.
The IV-E prevention funding is optional for states to pursue, and requires the approval of a plan received by Nebraska and others. All states will face the new limits on federal funds for group homes and institutions starting in October.