In Focus: Systems and Financing

Jun 16, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

The Family First Prevention Services Act—An Opportunity to Make a Positive Difference for Vulnerable Children and Families

By Stephanie Schmit

Update: The House passed the Family First Prevention Services Act on June 21 by voice vote. The legislation now moves to the Senate for further action. 

Yesterday, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee marked up the Family First Prevention Services Act, which allows states to use federal child welfare matching funds for certain quality prevention investments for children and their parents and encourages the placement of children in foster care in the least restrictive, most family-like settings.

This bill is significant because funding for child welfare prevention to help keep children safely at home is capped under current law, while foster care payments are not.  This bill would take a significant first step towards providing matching funds for specified prevention services and programs.

Funding would be available for two types of prevention services and programs:

  1. Mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services.
  2. In-home parent skill-based programs, which include parent skills training, parent education, and individual and family counseling.

The bill makes these services available to children who are candidates for foster care, without regard to income. Specifically, children must have a prevention plan identifying them as being at imminent risk of entering care but who can safely remain at home or in a kinship placement if provided services that prevent entry into foster care.  Services can also be provided to children in foster care who are pregnant or parenting, and to the parents or kin caregivers of candidates for foster care where services are need to prevent entry into care and directly relate to the child’s safety, permanence or wellbeing. The bill specifies that services are available for a maximum of 12 months, but can be received more than once throughout different points in the child and family’s life.

These provisions are important because parental mental health and substance abuse are significant risk factors for children—but treatment has been shown to be effective.  States that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act also have additional capacity to provide prevention services because of the mental health and substance abuse services available through Medicaid. While Medicaid has the potential to reach much larger populations of at-risk parents and children than the specific group targeted by the Family First Prevention Services Act—and states should be acting now to take advantage of that potential—the new flexibility would allow states to develop more intensive, comprehensive programs for these specific families, including non-health components that go beyond what can be funded under Medicaid. 

The cost of the new services would largely be offset by reductions in states' ability to claim federal payments for putting children in inappropriate non-family foster settings, such as group homes and congregate care settings, which are less desirable options than family placement.  

This bill is not a comprehensive child welfare reform bill—in particular, it leaves federal foster care eligibility tied to the pre-welfare reform Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility standards, which means that fewer and fewer foster care cases qualify for federal funding each year.  However, the bill is an important step towards the goal of investing in prevention of harm to children and reducing the need for more costly later interventions.

The Family First Prevention Services Act was introduced with bi-partisan, bi-cameral support and was approved by the Ways and Means Committee. We urge Congress to pass this bill.  


Feb 9, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

President’s Budget Proposes Deep Investment in Child Care and Early Education

By Stephanie Schmit

President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget proposal continued his call over many years for significant investments in child care and early education. This proposal sends an important message about the significance of investing in the early years to help ensure young children's success in life and support families' economic security.

Key investments in the budget proposal include:

  • Child Care. The President’s budget proposes a $200 million increase in discretionary funding (the funding set each year in the appropriations process) to help states implement the changes required by the 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization. This funding would include a $40 million competitive pilot to build the supply of high-quality child care in rural areas and during non-traditional hours. The proposal also includes $3.7 billion in additional mandatory dollars in FY17, as a first installment of investments totaling $82 billion over 10 years, to ensure high-quality child care access for low- and moderate-income families with children under age 4. Additionally, the budget proposes that child care funded directly through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds meet the same health and safety standards established in the CCDBG reauthorization.
  • Head Start. The proposal includes an increase of $434 million in discretionary dollars for Head Start. This includes funding for increasing the number of children in a full-day, full-year program ($292 million), maintaining the current number of children and quality in Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships ($10 million), and providing a cost of living increase ($132 million) for Head  Start programs.
  • Preschool Development Grants. The proposal includes a $100 million increase for preschool development grants, which would provide continuation funding for existing grantees and new funds under the newly authorized Preschool Development Grants included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.
  • Preschool for All and Home Visiting. The proposal includes $75 billion—to be funded with an increased tobacco tax –to support access to high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low-income families and evidence-based home visiting. The budget also includes $20 million for a new initiative to provide home visiting in rural and tribal areas that will be jointly administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). The budget provides an increase of $35 million for IDEA preschool grants and $45 million for the IDEA Infants and Families program.  
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The budget proposal includes an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under age five. The proposal triples the maximum credit available for families to $3,000 per child and makes the full CDCTC available to families with incomes of up to $120,000.

The investments laid out in President Obama’s budget proposal would be historic and set an important vision for the country. The budget proposal, however, is a blueprint; Congress will ultimately be responsible for setting funding levels for the federal budget. In the coming weeks, congressional leadership will lay out its vision for investments. We encourage Congress to affirm its commitment to continued investments in child care and early education. In particular, states will need significant new CCDBG funds in 2017, beyond the proposed discretionary increase, to implement the bipartisan reauthorization. These investments are critical to ensure that the goals of the CCDBG reauthorization are met and ensure the success of young children who will become the future leaders and workers of our country. 

Dec 2, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Using Two-Generational Strategies to Support Immigrant Families

By: Christina Walker and Helly Lee

Back in the spring, CLASP convened a high-level group of professionals for a two-day, intensive discussion of important opportunities in policy and practice to better serve immigrant parents and their children together. This Two-Generational Strategies to Improve Immigrant Family and Child Outcome roundtable included senior policymakers, practitioners, researchers, advocates, and foundation leaders from the world of policy and service delivery for low-income families and the world of immigrant-serving organizations and immigration policy.

Today, CLASP is releasing a brief summarizing the highlights drawn from the April roundtable. The roundtable and brief come at a critical time, when immigrants and their children are such a significant part of the changing demographics of the United States. Immigrant families are crucial to the nation’s future success: one-quarter of the nation’s young children – those under age 6 - are children of immigrants. Being a child of immigrants is not itself a risk factor for poor developmental outcomes, and many immigrant families demonstrate strong resilience and success. However, the brief highlights the challenges that arise from the sheer difficulty of providing high-quality services in the face of barriers such as language, education level, race, and poverty that some immigrant families encounter. For instance:

  • 29 percent of young children of immigrants are poor and more than half -56 percent - are low-income;
  • 3 million (50 percent) of immigrant parents with young children are Limited English Proficient (LEP); and
  • 28 percent of immigrant parents of young children have less than a high school degree.

Participants in the roundtable reiterated the urgency of  this moment to have critical conversations and make crucial connections between immigrant-serving and more “mainstream” organizations in order to seize promising policy opportunities. With major policy changes underway as a result of recent reauthorizations of the nation’s child care subsidy and workforce programs, as well as federal executive action to promote immigrant integration, participants identified key strategies, including four practical action steps highlighted in the brief to advance two-generational strategies to support immigrant parents and their children:

  1. Spreading the Sense of Urgency and Opportunity by replicating the discussion of two-generational strategies to support immigrant families and children in convenings around the country to share knowledge and provide an opportunity to plan collaboratively.
  2. Creating Strategic Partnerships involving immigrant-serving organizations, those that currently deliver workforce or early childhood services, and others that serve low income communities of color. Participants also emphasized that creating and sustaining these partnerships requires that federal agencies and philanthropic funders must play a critical support role in providing resources.
  3. Building the New Mainstream Institutions to better serve immigrant families by increasing the capacity of organizations, creating accountability and transparency for what success looks like, and creating opportunities for collaboration.
  4. Thinking Both Big and Small by responding to today’s urgent concern in a way that supports far bigger change in the future: keep the focus simultaneously on immediate, incremental steps and an ambitious long-run vision.

This discussion of two-generational strategies to support immigrant families and children is all the more important given the current budget context at the federal level, with many key programs struggling to meet the needs of today’s families. For example, the Child Care and Development Block Grant is reaching the smallest number of children in 15 years, and the risk that services to immigrants will get worse, not better, is significant. In addition, as Congress delays action on immigration reform policies that would address the needs of immigrant families and as the federal courts continue to stall the implementation of key provisions in the President’s executive order to provide temporary relief for millions of immigrant parents of American children, it is urgent to provide the supports immigrant families need. Significant additional investment is needed to fully seize the important opportunities to support young children of immigrants and help immigrant adults succeed in their dual roles as parents and workers.

Read the brief >> 

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