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List of States Seeking Family First Act Delay is Up to at Least 27

May 28, 2019John Kelly

The Family First Act was signed into law in February 2018, and mostly takes effect in October 2019

Updated information from the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF), obtained last week by Youth Services Insider, shows that the number of states intending to delay on the Family First Prevention Services Act is now at least 27 states.

YSI obtained an initial list of 17 states in mid-May, after multiple requests that began with a normal inquiry to ACF. After filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we were denied again. Then, nearly four months after our appeal of that denial was filed, ACF provided a list of states that have requested a delay.

Based on the message received from Health and Human Services’ (HHS) FOIA office, it appeared this list of 17 included all of the states that had notified ACF of a delay between November of 2018 and the present. November 9 was the nominal date that ACF had asked states for some indication of what they expected to do, though it was not a hard deadline.

“The attached list is what has been processed over the months after your initial FOIA request was submitted,” said Deborah Peters, a FOIA specialist for HHS, in an e-mail.

YSI sought clarification after officials from Texas – which was not on the first list we received – showed us the notice of delay it had sent to the feds.

ACF informed YSI last week that the first list had in fact only included the states that submitted delay notices by November 9, and provided a new list that is current through May 15. The new list includes 10 additional states that have notified ACF of a planned delay since November.

The Family First Act was passed in February of 2018, and will enable states to use the Title IV-E entitlement – previously reserved for foster care and adoption support – to fund services aimed at working with parents without the need for a family separation. Those services must be evidence-based and apply to three areas: parenting, substance abuse treatment and mental health interventions.

At the same time, the law restricts federal funds for the placement of foster youth in group homes and other “congregate care” options. States will only be able to draw funds for such placements for two weeks, with exceptions for programs that serve some niche populations and for accredited providers using trauma-informed, clinical models. Even in those cases, a judge will need to periodically approve the need for continued use of a congregate care facility.

Family First’s front-end services are limited to substance abuse, mental health and parenting interventions. And it is further restricted to models of services that are deemed to be promising practices or evidence-based interventions by a newly established clearinghouse.

States have the option to delay on the congregate care limitations until October 2021, but cannot use IV-E for the foster care prevention services until the delay ends. Here are the states that so far have submitted a plan to delay for either one or two years on the Family First Act:

Delay to October 2020

  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Pennsylvania

Delay to October 2021

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also notified ACF of an intent to delay for two years, as have three Native American tribes: Chickasaw Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.

More states are likely to formally request a delay over the summer. YSI knows for sure two additional states – Maine and Montana – where officials have indicated a delay is likely.

Back in February, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan sent a letter to colleagues noting that the state was not ready.

The agency “is focused on ensuring a successful statewide implementation and has, like the majority of states, decided not to rush into implementation,” she said in the letter. “DPHHS will work closely with community stakeholders and providers as we anticipate implementation by October 2021 or earlier.”

In a recent e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change related to our annual research project on foster care capacity, Maine indicated it is keen to take advantage of Family First’s new funding but needs more time to prepare.

“Our new director, Dr. Todd Landry, just came onboard a few weeks ago and implementation of [Family First] is high on his priority list,” said John Feeney, chief operating officer of the Office of Child and Families. “We plan to work collaboratively with stakeholders throughout child welfare and children’s behavioral health to ensure we thoughtfully and methodically implement … in a manner that best benefits the children and families of Maine.”

The most notable absence from this list is California, which without question had the most vocal constituencies pushing back against Family First before its passage. The state has a large federal waiver to spend its IV-E money more flexibly in several large counties, and has said that a shift from that arrangement to Family First would cost the state $320 million. Its largest county system, Los Angeles, is currently leading an effort to pass a federal law extending IV-E waivers for another two years.

The California Department of Social Services (DSS) confirmed to YSI that indeed, the state has not yet decided to seek a delay on implementation. The state would need conforming legislation to create a Family First Act state plan, according to DSS – since that legislation has not been passed, a delay for the state is very likely.

That the list of delaying states has grown since November is not a huge surprise. Guidance on the law has come out slower than was expected, and the clearinghouse still has not announced an approved list of services that states could use the new IV-E prevention funds for. Without some lead time on what new funding opportunities will be available on the front-end, it’s hard to blame states for voluntarily limiting their ability to fund their ongoing congregate care services.

John Kelly

About John Kelly 1114 ArticlesJohn Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.


Pennsylvania Family Finding Act

Attorney Karla Cruel will work with you and your budget
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http://www.ocfcpacourts.us/childrens-roundtable-initiative/family-engagement-initiative/family-finding

How to Protect Your Case With A Court Appointed Attorney

When planning for developing this site we held focus groups with families with cases in family court. The following information was missing when these families went through the family court process.

1. Declaration of Facts: often low income families aren’t able to hire an attorney and have court appointed attorneys. The court appointed attorney is often overloaded with cases and won’t write a declaration of facts. You can help your attorney by writing the declaration and having the attorney proof read.

Linda Martin blogs for  FightCPS: Child Protective Services-CPS-False Accusations and posted some great advice for families.

“A few years ago I advised parents to write a letter to their attorneys to let them know what is expected of them. Get this on paper and keep a copy. If the attorney refuses to at least attempt to provide an adequate defense you’ll have proof that you requested one, and can sue in civil court for legal malpractice. Let’s hope your attorney problem never gets to that point.”

When writing your declaration of facts, keep two things in mind:

1. NEVER write any self-incriminating statements into your declaration as this can be used against you. You’re trying to prove your innocence, and not give evidence to prove your guilt.

2. Keep it as brief as possible. The judge is far more likely to read it happily and thoroughly if your sentences are short and to the point, and if no unnecessary information is included. Brevity is golden when writing court documents. You want the judge to like you, not hate you because your statement was too long. Focus in on the most important issues and leave out everything else.

Here is a simple format for your declaration of facts, which should be double-spaced.

Name:

Address:

Phone:

Email:

Declaration of Facts

I, ______________________________, state:

(Your Name)

1. I am the mother/father of three children: (Names of kids.)

2. This declaration is being written (state reason for writing the declaration of facts – for example, “in support of a motion to return children to mother” or, “to explain my side of the case to the court”.

3. This is in reference to (Case Name, Case Number, Date Filed and the name of the court.)

4. (Just state facts one at a time… I’ll give some examples.) On June 2, 2002 I let my children go to school as usual and while they were there a CPS employee interviewed them without letting me know first.

5. There were no witnesses to this interview and to my knowledge no recording was made.

6. My children were detained by the CPS employee and I was not notified by the school so by 4:30 when they didn’t come home from school I was worried about them and called the school to find out if they knew anything.

7. At first nobody wanted to tell me where my kids were and the phone was handed to three different people. Finally the principal got on the line and told me that CPS took my three kids because my son, Johnny, had a bruise on his arm and said I did it.

8. The bruise happened because he climbed the apple tree and then got scared and couldn’t get down. I climbed up there and grabbed him and had to lower him down by his arm and that’s how he got bruised.

9. By the time I got off the phone with the principal of the school, it was only a few minutes before five PM so I called CPS but only got a recording and nobody would answer. It was Friday and I couldn’t get through to them all weekend and even went to the office twice but it was closed. That was why I didn’t check on them for two days – not because I didn’t care which is what the worker, Judy Jones, made it sound like in court on Wednesday.

10. I haven’t seen my children in three weeks because they say I’m a danger to them. This is not true. In fact most of what they say about me is not true which is why I’m contesting the charges and asking for a full trial to make them try to prove their untrue statements.

11. The CPS employees I talk to on the phone are extremely rude to me. They are Judy Jones and her supervisor, Mr. Smith. Judy Jones said very sarcastically: “You should never have had kids if you were going to hurt them. People like you make me sick.” This woman, Judy Jones, won’t believe this happened in the apple tree.

12. I am requesting a court order for the return of my children immediately.

[NOTE: This last part should state the exact words used, just change the date and place to match your circumstance.]

Executed January, 1, 2003 Town, State

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

_________________________________

(Your Name)

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