Coalition of Foster Youth, Family Advocates and Human Services Leaders Urge Action on the Family First Prevention Services Act
Today, a coalition of foster youth, family advocates and health and human services leaders issued a joint statement urging immediate action on the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (“Family First Act”), a bipartisan, revenue-neutral bill that would help orient the nation’s child welfare system toward keeping families together and give new tools to improve the lives of millions of children and their families. Children and their families deserve these life changing improvements. The Family First Act would put families first by:
- Keeping children safely in their families by investing in evidence-based programs and promising practices, such as parental substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and in-home training, that can prevent child abuse and neglect.
- Supporting extended family members caring for children who would otherwise go into foster care.
- Prioritizing placement of children with families and ensuring that children receive the most appropriate clinical services to help them heal and thrive.
The Family First Act passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives and has the support of over 400 agencies and nonprofit organizations across the child welfare and family support space. Additionally, hundreds of foster youth and alumni of foster care, along with advocates for children and families, have expressed their strong support. However, despite overwhelming bi-partisan and bi-cameral support, with less than a week before Congress recesses for the fall, the Senate has yet to consider this landmark and transformative piece of legislation.
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, FosterClub, Generations United and The National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds issued the following joint statement supporting the Family First Act and urgently calling for action in the Senate:
“For the first time in generations, we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-orient our child welfare system to be more proactive and preventative. Unfortunately, that opportunity will evaporate by the end of this month if Congress fails to take action before leaving for fall recess.
“The Family First Act would usher in a new era of child welfare: one that youth and families have been urging for decades where we invest resources to keep families together, whenever possible, rather than tear them apart. Hearing these cries from those served by the child welfare system led to the overwhelmingly bipartisan Family First Act. The act will address a critical flaw in our current federal child welfare financing system by prioritizing services that help children remain safely with their families. By supporting families facing challenges, such as drug addiction and mental health issues, we can address problems earlier and prevent the need to place children in foster care with unrelated persons. By providing critical resources for more birth parents and extended families to care for children, we can ensure children have the stability they need for healthy brain development.
“Continuing the status quo is unacceptable. In the three months since the House of Representatives unanimously approved the Family First Act, more than 33,000 children have been removed from their families and placed into foster care. Due to developments in neuroscience, we now know that the trauma suffered by children removed from their families has life-long ripple effects on brain development. The Family First Act would provide supportive services to children, parents and caregivers in their home, ensuring thousands of children could remain safely with their families. The time is now to align federal child welfare spending with what we know is best for kids.
“Critics point out that the Family First Act does not include every provision we had hoped for. The reality is no bill is ever perfect. The work of Congress is incremental. Each child welfare bill Congress passes builds on the next in our nation’s journey to meet the needs of our children. The Family First Act is about breaking ground and laying the foundation for a critical culture shift. The Family First Act will provide the biggest step forward in federal child welfare policy since we abandoned orphanages decades ago, and we have a moral obligation to not squander this opportunity. If Congress does not act now to strengthen and invest in our nation’s families, we will lose the best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety and success of millions of vulnerable children. We owe it to our nation’s children and their families to do everything we can to ensure they receive the tools and resources they need to strengthen and keep families together. The opportunity to act is now.”
The funding that would make the Family First Act possible will become unavailable after September 30th. If Congress does not act before reaching agreement on the Continuing Resolution to keep the government open, $400 million of the bill’s funding will be allocated elsewhere. Additional funding will be unavailable during a lame duck session, and even if it were available, the Congressional Budget Office would have to re-score the legislation next year, resulting in significant delays.
Supporters across the board believe the Family First Act actively upholds our country’s value of putting families first. With the fall Congressional recess set to begin as early as the end of this week, the time to act is now.
Learn more about the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 online.