The Next 16 Programs Up for Family First Act Funding

The federal clearinghouse established to determine which services can be funded to help prevent the use of foster care in some child welfare cases has added 16 new programs for review in the coming months, just weeks after announcing its first slate of approvals.

The clearinghouse is the gatekeeper for federal funding under the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was passed in 2018 and takes effect in October. The law for the first time permits states to tap into Title IV-E, the child welfare entitlement overseen by the Children’s Bureau, to help avoid the use of foster care.

The services must relate to substance abuse treatment, mental health interventions and in-home parenting skills. Family First also offers a match to states on funds for kinship navigator programs, one-stop centers that connect relative caregivers to resources, respite and eligible benefits.

Each service must meet a high bar of effectiveness established in the law and monitored by the clearinghouse. Eligible programs are given a rating of either Well-Supported, Supported or Promising based on how substantial the evidence is.

The clearinghouse has approved nine candidates so far, and has rejected three. It has yet to make a ruling on Motivational Interviewing, one of the original models it took up. The Children’s Bureau has also set up a temporary, parallel review track for states that want to argue for a service it is using or hopes to use that will likely someday make the clearinghouse list.

Click here and here for coverage of those decisions. Below is a list of the services now under review, including a brief description and the rating it received from the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC), which is regarded as one of the top collections on child welfare program effectiveness.

A few initial thoughts from Youth Services Insider on the list:

-The Ohio kinship navigator model is the first one reviewed by this clearinghouse that has been reviewed by CEBC, so you have to think it has the best chance of any of the four under review so far. There will be a lot of disappointed folks in the kinship advocacy world if at least one navigator model isn’t cleared for a federal match in this first year of the law.

-It is still really stunning to YSI how much of the clearinghouse’s focus is on adolescent behavior. The momentum for this law really built around concern about adult drug use, specifically of heroin and other opioids. A lot of the programs approved already or under review now focus on the behavior of children, especially adolescents.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If working with parents to address child behavior stabilizes a home that otherwise couldn’t be kept together, that’s the point of the law’s new front-end prevention services. It also continues to open up IV-E services to help with post-adoption services, a woefully neglected part of the child welfare continuum.

Approved for Multiple Uses

Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up

Description: A three-part intervention for parents of very young children aimed at helping them develop a nurturing response to behavior that stems from early maltreatment.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Well-Supported

Brief Strategic Family Therapy

Description: A counselor works with the family to address adolescent drug use and co-occurring risky behaviors.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Supported

Multidimensional Family Therapy

Description: Also a family-based treatment strategy aimed at addressing adolescent substance abuse, along with other behavioral or emotional problems.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Well-Supported

Mental Health

Child Parent Psychotherapy

Description: A treatment that seeks to build a healthier connection between a young child and primary caregiver after a child has experienced trauma.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Supported

Incredible Years

Description: A program that uses group leaders, coaches and mentors to deliver a three-faced training to parents, children and teachers, with the goal of reducing behavioral and emotional problems in kids.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Well-Supported

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Description: An intervention used by trained mental health professionals to diagnose and address depression in adults.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Well-Supported

Solution Based Casework

Description: A case management approach that uses “specific plans of action,” blocking a child welfare-involved family’s plan into family- and individual-level objectives.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Promising

Triple P – Positive Parenting Program

Description: There are a couple levels of Triple P; the Level 4 program works on parenting plans with the caregivers of children with moderate or several behavioral issues.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Well-Supported (other versions are rated Supported or Promising)

Substance Abuse

Family Behavior Therapy

Description: A model that can be used to address substance abuse issues of adults or of kids between age 11 and 17, and include a range of actions such as handling emergencies, ensuring household safety and financial management.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Both versions are rated Supported

Seeking Safety

Description: Also a dual-use model, which can be conducted in group or individual format. The goal is to use a 25-topic curriculum to help people cope after trauma, substance abuse or both.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: The adolescent model is rated Promising, and the adult model is rated Supported

The Seven Challenges

Description: A program for adolescents and young adults designed to motivate a commitment away from troubling drug use and the development of necessary life skills.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Promising

In-home Parent Skill-based

Nurturing Parenting

Description: A 15-session program where parents and children attend separate groups. The goal is to roll back parenting behaviors that known to contribute to child maltreatment.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: The school-age child model is rated Promising; CEBC has not yet rated the model for newborns.


Description: An intensive family preservation services model that surrounds a family with support and assistance aimed at avoiding unnecessary use of foster care or involvement with the justice system.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Supported


Description: A maltreatment prevention strategy that works with parents on positive interaction, recognizing home hazards, and responding correctly to illness or injury.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Supported

Kinship Navigator

Ohio’s Kinship Supports Intervention/ProtectOHIO

Description: Conducts needs assessments with kin caregivers and develops a targeted support plan based on that.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Promising

YMCA Kinship Support Services, YMCA Youth and Family Services of San Diego County

Description:  Case management, support groups and respite care for relatives and other kin caring for children in San Diego County.

Rating on California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse: Not Yet Rated

Update: This piece was updated with a 16th service, Homebuilders, which YSI either missed on first pass (likely) through or was added by the clearinghouse after its initial announcement. 

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