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State Allies Gather to Explore FFPSA, Prevention, and Structural Racism in Child Welfare


In the highly anticipated National Issues>State Action presentation The State of Prevention: Family First Prevention Services Act and Child Welfare, Alliance for Early Success allies heard dynamic presentations by Allison Blake, CEO of Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut and former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families and Jeremy Kohomban, President and CEO of The Children’s Village and President of Harlem Dowling. 

Both Dr. Blake and Dr. Kohomban are leading figures in child welfare practice and policy. In case you missed it, you can download their slides here or watch a recording of the whole presentation here.

FFPSA and Child Welfare Presentation
Dr. Blake kicked off the discussion by discussing the importance of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). Key facts she discussed included the following:
  • Landmark legislation committed to making families the priority
  • FFPSA was initially introduced in 2015 but enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, with an interesting bipartisan backstory.
  • Historically, not all children placed in foster care were in imminent danger. In fact, many placements are the result of child neglect, which is often a proxy for poverty and racism. In fact, many placements could be avoided by providing services to parents and by addressing structural racism.
  • Prior to FFPSA, Title IV-E provided federal funding only after children had been removed from their families and placed in foster care.
  • FFPSA, which represents culmination of over 40 years of policy advocacy, is a game-changer because it removes the financial incentive to take children away from their parents and place them in foster care, and instead invest Title IV-E funding into prevention services to prevent a placement into foster care.
  • FFPSA creates an incentive for states to develop a continuum of care with home and community-based services.
Status of FFPSA:
  • Signed into law in 2018 and gives states up to 3 years to implement the law
  • 9 States and Tribes submitted Title IV-E Plans, with 6 receiving approval: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Utah.
  • FFPSA provides states and advocates with opportunity to coordinate across the systemof CPS, courts, community agencies, health, education, advocates, philanthropy, research and academia.
  • Most important aspect of prevention services is the definition of candidacy, which defines the populations of children and families who will receive preventive services under FFPSA.
  • Candidacy matters because it allows states to reimagine child welfare systems that distinguish between poverty and neglect; address racial injustice across all levels of the child welfare system where racial disparities and disproportionality exists; and focus on the care and needs of the child and family.
  • It is important to intervene early and further upstream and collaborating with early childhood experts who are among the most knowledgeable about the effectiveness of early childhood prevention programs and services.
  • Examples of Coordinated Plans and Efforts:
  • Washington, DC
  • Utah
  • New York State Initiative: Philanthropy assist public agency to develop tools and bring partners together
  • Connecticut
  • Family Resource Centers provide an opportunity for families to obtain services and supports they want in their community.
  • Family Resource Centers were first developed in Pennsylvania. They have been replicated nationwide.
  • Family Resource Centers are run by parent for parents. One of the hallmarks of Washington, DC’s IV-E Prevention plan is its Family Success Centers, which were modeled after Family Resource Centers.
  • Prevention Programs Under FFPSA
  • Overview of Title IV-E Clearinghouse / Understanding the Clearinghouse
  • Recent Additions of Prevention Programs to the Clearinghouse
  • Many are early childhood programs
Role of Early Childhood Advocates in FFPSA Implementation
  • Collaborate with child welfare and other advocates and stakeholders regarding prevention programs and services
  • Be an Ally to child welfare systems in educating them about prevention programs and services
  • Address issues, such as poverty, housing, income supports, child care and other critical services that children and families need.
Resources for Early Childhood Advocates
Dr. Kohomban followed up with an equally powerful presentation regarding the role that racism plays in child welfare systems. He first provided an overview of the Children’s Village.
  • The Children’s Village was founded in 1851 as a New York Juvenile Asylum to provide residential care for orphans and juvenile delinquents roaming the streets of Manhattan. The children would be placed/indentured in families residing on farms in the Midwest. They were transported to the Midwest via “orphan trains.” Orphan trains were the precursor to the modern foster care system. The Children’s Village influenced the creation of Indian Training Schools as a model.
  • Today, the Children’s Village employs 1400 employees who are responsible for the care of 3,000 youth where 40 percent of the children and youth require high-need residential care, deep-end foster care /juvenile justice and immigration, and 60 percent require family foster care, wrap-around, school-based, community services.
Themes in the Foster Care System:
Articles/Appearances By Dr. Kohomban:
Stanford Social Innovation Review – The Systematic Starvation of Those Who Do Good
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