The clearinghouse that approves services under the Family First Prevention Services Act has agreed to reconsider a training program it downgraded last winter.
Family Centered Treatment, or FCT, which is used to train biological parents and other caregivers on the effects of trauma on children, had received transitional approval in 2019 to be among the services that states could fund under the law, which fully takes effect in all states on October 1. The Family First Act opened up the Title IV-E entitlement, previously reserved for foster care and adoption expenses, to help states pay for efforts to prevent family separation in some child welfare cases.
FCT received the highest evidence-based rating, Well-Supported, through a transitional review process put in place while the clearinghouse was just getting its own work underway. But in February of 2021, in its formal review of the model, the IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse found that it did not meet the criteria for Family First funding. It was not clear at the time what had caused the change.
Several states had already written the model into their plans for Family First funding, and now were confronted with either paying for that service without federal support, or putting its use on hold. The Family Centered Treatment Foundation, a nonprofit that is contracted by states to train and certify workers on the model, met with federal child welfare officials at the Children’s Bureau in April to discuss that and to try and get help in determining the cause of the downgrade. It was evident that the shift had something to do with the clearinghouse’s interpretation of the evaluations offered as evidence of FCT’s effectiveness.
Days after that meeting, the clearinghouse — which is operated by the company Abt via a contract with the Children’s Bureau — provided a detailed rationale for its decision to the foundation, which did outline ways in which the evaluations of Family Centered Treatment did not, as is, comport with the clearinghouse’s handbook for high-quality research; a fixable problem, in that older research can be reworked to fit the parameters of such guides.
“Some things cited were valid” in the explanation, said the foundation’s executive director, Tim Wood, though he wondered why those details could not have been shared sooner.
Wood said the foundation hired researchers and consultants to re-analyze the study of FCT in question, and re-submitted it to the clearinghouse. And last week, the clearinghouse notified Wood that it “has decided to conduct a formal re-review” of the model.
But a new decision may not come in time for at least a small disruption. Family Centered Treatment was still eligible for federal funding for a few quarters after the clearinghouse removed its evidence-based status. But unless the re-review is finished in its favor by the end of this month, IV-E funds won’t be available for Family Centered Treatment on October 1.
This is the second significant re-review announced by the clearinghouse in the past month. It is also reconsidering the chief evaluation for an Ohio kinship support program that was originally nixed by the clearinghouse in mid-March of 2020. The Family First Act offers states a 50-50 split on the costs of kinship navigator programs; If the Ohio model gains a rating of Promising or higher, it will be the first kin support program approved for this funding.
The clearinghouse is also re-reviewing two programs that already rate inclusion for prevention services, but could see their rating increase or decrease based on the process: Child-parent psychotherapy, a mental health intervention, and Intercept, which uses family intervention specialists to prevent foster care utilization or support reunification of families.