Trump Signs Spending Bill with Family First Sweeteners, Boosts to Head Start and Child Care

President Trump, speaking at a rally, approved a spending bill that includes large increases for several youth and family programs. Photo: White House

Just days after being impeached by the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump signed a spending bill for 2020 that includes hundreds of millions in funding to assist states with a recent overhaul of federal child welfare financing.

More than $500 million will head to states through the Family First Transitions Act, which was rolled into the omnibus spending bill passed and signed on the last day before lawmakers head home for the year. The act is meant to help states more speedily make use of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which includes more money for preventing the use of foster care and limits the use of group homes.

The bill also includes a funding increase for child abuse prevention, affordable preschool and child care.

The Family First Act, signed into law in 2018, expands the Title IV-E entitlement – which currently only funds foster care and adoption services – to include efforts at preventing the use of foster care in some child welfare cases. This will be known as “IV-E Prevention,” and the list of fundable services is limited to substance abuse treatment, mental health interventions and in-home parenting programs.

The law also limits IV-E funds for placing foster youth in group homes and other “congregate care” settings. States will only be able to tap into IV-E for two weeks of funding for those placements, with exceptions for those that serve pregnant/parenting teens, youth older than 18, youth at risk of sex trafficking, and youth with acute health needs.

Both the front-end funds, and the group care limits, took effect in October of this year. States were given the right to delay the effect of the limits on congregate care through fiscal 2021, but would forfeit the ability to draw down the new foster care prevention funds during such a delay.

Thirty-nine states indicated plans to delay for at least a year, and 11 announced an intention to implement Family First in its first year. Thus far, only Washington, D.C., and Utah have received the necessary approval to draw the new IV-E prevention funds.

The Family First provisions in the spending bill accomplish three things:

  • Establishing a $500 million general fund to help states with the transition
  • Payments to states with previously held waivers on their IV-E funding, many of which fear a significant fiscal gap under Family First
  • Delaying the onset of eligibility restrictions that limit half of Family First prevention funding to programs with the hardest-to-achieve level in terms of impact and effect

Click here for a more in-depth explanation of those three changes. Youth Services Insider will dive into the entire end-of-year bill for a rundown next week, but a few other notable changes right off the bat:

  • $550 million increase (up to $10.6 billion), for Head Start a national early learning program that serves child through age 5
  • $550 million increase (up to $5.8 billion) to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides child care subsidies to low-income families.
  • 50 percent increase (up to $42 million) for delinquency prevention grants under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
  • 10 percent increase (up to $101.5 million) for education of homeless children
  • $20 million for the development, enhancement and evaluation of kinship navigator programs for up to $200,000 for states and $25,000 for tribes

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New York wants to use a fund for #FamilyFirst Act prep to prevent youth from aging out of #fostercare, but some counties say the money is already spent or earmarked #childwelfare