The Biden administration may revise the handbook for evaluating services meant to prevent the use of foster care in some child welfare cases.
The handbook guides the work of a newly constituted Prevention Services Clearinghouse, which was established as part of the Family First Prevention Services Act in 2018. The law aims to help families that are candidates for potential system involvement get help before a removal is deemed necessary.
Before Family First, the billions of dollars in Title IV-E social security funds could only be tapped to help families and children once children had been taken into foster care, which is almost by definition a traumatic event for everyone involved. Now they can be used to prevent foster care placements by offering parents and families evidence-based mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services as well as in-home parent skill-based programs and kinship navigator services.
Most states have taken a permitted delay on implementing major provisions in Family First, but it will take full effect in October.
The clearinghouse is operated by Abt Associates, which was awarded an initial contract of $5.2 million for the work in October of 2018. Only programs and models rated to be “Well-Supported,” “Supported” and “Promising” based on the body of evaluation work are approved to receive federal funding.
After a slow start, the clearinghouse has approved 34 models for IV-E funding, and dismissed 21 as “Does not currently meet criteria.” Still, some in child welfare have been frustrated by the speed of the process, and by a lack of transparency about why models are rejected and the process is for appealing such determinations.
Before making any changes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) wants to hear feedback on the proposed changes from stakeholders and has set a deadline of Aug. 16 for submitting comments.
Those comments will then be weighed as to whether the draft changes should be altered. ACF notes in the Federal Register notice that it is especially eager for comments on how standards and procedures might advance racial equity and support for underserved communities.
The proposed changes to the handbook could affect state and locally administered programs throughout the country. Click here for details on how the review process works and here to submit questions and comments on proposed changes.