Family First Act: New York Child Welfare Association, State Agency Oppose Bill; North Carolina, Too

Note: This column was updated on Tuesday, June 28

Last week, we reported on several California state and county entities voicing opposition to certain aspects of the Family First Prevention Services Act, a federal child welfare financing bill that has passed the House and now rests with the Senate.

A professional organization in another state, the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA), has joined the opposition and in a letter urged the state’s senators to oppose the bill. Same for the North Carolina Association of County Departments of Social Services.

Youth Services Insider has also learned from a leader in the New York child welfare community that the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is opposed to the bill, and has sent a similar letter of opposition to New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.

OCFS has yet to comment on the bill to YSI, and we will update this piece again if it decides to do so.

“The New York Public Welfare Association STRONGLY OPPOSES H.R. 5456, as it will greatly impact the ability of New York State and its 58 county-run, local departments of social services (DSS) to best serve foster children,” said the NYPWA letter, signed by Executive Director Sheila Harrington. “It also represents a major unfunded mandate on state and local child welfare systems which must absorb the loss of federal Title IV-E funding — as well as the costs associated with the bill’s added administrative requirements.”

[Click here to read the entire NYPWA letter].

To demonstrate the speed with which this bill started to move, Harrington told Youth Services Insider last Tuesday that the NYPWA had not yet considered the legislation. A week later, it is mounting a full-throated opposition to the bill.

Harrington said that while the association applauded the preventive services component of the bill, the federal dollars for those services would be “overshadowed by lost IV-E funding for congregate care.”

North Carolina’s counties, home to 9,859 foster youth according to the most recent federal count, expressed similar displeasure with the congregate care limits. From the association’s letter to Sens. Richard Burr and Thomas Tillis:

“Although we prioritize family foster homes and kinship placements for our children there is simply not a sufficient number of these placements available in North Carolina at the present time. Unfortunately, congregate care is necessary to protect foster children in our state.”

[Click here to read the entire letter sent by NCACDSS].

NYPWA estimates a loss of $250 million in federal support for congregate care in New York. It does not specify a time frame for that shortfall.

The Congressional Budget Office projects a $910 million aggregate cut to congregate care spending by the feds between 2017 and 2026. So if NYPWA is referring to that time frame, New York represents about 27 percent of all federal spending on congregate care.

“Although well intentioned, the Families First Prevention Services Act would negate the good work being done on a local and state level on behalf of foster children,” Harrington said in the letter.

In 2013, the number of New York foster children in congregate care was 3,323, 14.5 percent of the state’s total. That is a 56.5 percent decrease from 2004, when 7,643 youths (22.9 percent) were in congregate care.

California and New York share one number that may factor into angst about Family First: 58. There are 58 counties in California, and they all operate independent child welfare systems with some oversight and block funding from the state’s Department of Social Services. In New York, there are 58 local social services districts that operate with a commensurate amount of autonomy.

The two states, combined, are home to 79,193 youth in foster care, 19 percent of the 415,129 American youth in foster care according to federal data.

Click here to read all of The Imprint‘s continuing coverage of the Family First Prevention Services Act.

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