Alliance and Sen. Wyden Urge Senate to Take Action

The members of the 114th Congress have left Washington D.C. for their home states for summer recess. But before their departure, there was a tremendous effort in the Senate to pass the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (HR 5456). It was passed by the House of Representatives in June. But unfortunately, the bill will wait in the queue until the Senate reconvenes Sept. 6.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)In a statement given before departing for recess, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and co-author of HR 5456, urged his colleagues to support the Family First Prevention Services Act. He said, “The Senate can and must get this done in the months ahead and send it to the president’s desk.” Wyden described the bill as “an historic opportunity to help vulnerable families and children at risk,” noting that, for the first time, it would “allow states to permanently invest federal foster care dollars to safely keep families together, instead of ripping them apart.”

As he has done throughout the process, Sen. Wyden acknowledged that the law is not perfect, but he envisions opportunities through the regulatory and future legislative processes to strengthen it and frames this bill as an important step closer toward a system that prioritizes “#KeepingKidsInFamilies.”

There are three areas of concern that have come to his attention, which he addresses in the statement, and offers further clarification. Particularly helpful is a walkthrough of the 10-week period where federal funding is available to ensure appropriate placement in residential treatment, a timeline and process that some have found a challenge to fully ascertain from the bill’s language.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will continue to help build support for passage of this legislation. To date, we have negotiated a Nursing Staff Colloquy that will become part of the Congressional Record. This serves to further define the legislative intent for the provisions of what the bill would newly-define as qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs). The Colloquy will be helpful as the Alliance and other organizations engage with the new presidential administration to help design the regulations that will guide the bill’s implementation.

Review Sen. Wyden’s entire statement.

About the author: Marlo Nash joined the Alliance as senior vice president for public policy and mobilization in 2015.

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