Credit hours:
2.50

Course Summary

The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (aka Family First) transforms federal child welfare financing streams to allow funding for services to families whose children may be at risk of entering foster care. It includes the most significant changes to federal child welfare finance structures since the establishment of the Title IV-E entitlement in 1980. The law aims to prevent unnecessary removal of children from their families by allowing federal funding for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skills training. Further, the law attempts to improve the well-being of children in foster care by discontinuing federal reimbursement when a child's placement in a congregate care setting is unnecessary. The law also provides for increased support for young people as they transition from foster care to adulthood. This two part training explains key provisions within the Family First Act in order to provide a broader understanding of the Family First Act and how it impacts both the child welfare and foster care systems. While Module 1 provides a more general overview, Module 2 places special emphasis on “prevention.” Estimated completion time: 2.5 hours

In this course, you can expect to learn:

Learning Objectives - In this course, you will:

  • Develop a broader understanding of prevention services as they relate to The Family First Prevention Services Act 

  • Learn how prevention services and more comprehensive reunification services provide a higher probability of keeping families intact

  • Better understand the important supporting role mental health services play in keeping families safe, stable, and permanent

Step 1 (Webinar and Text 70 min)

Preventing Unnecessary Removal of Children From Their Families - Watch this webinar on prevention hosted by The National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council (NFCYAPC). Hear first-hand from young people who experienced foster care, and learn ways to improve child welfare practice and policy. This webinar includes recommendations on implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, as well as moving our Child Welfare System into the 21st Century. View the statement and detailed recommendations in PDF format here.

*The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council convenes to provide federal stakeholders with relevant and timely information regarding policies and procedures that impact children and families throughout the country. The Council represents a collective viewpoint of youth and alumni who have personal/lived experience in the foster care system. The Council advises by:

  • Using their experiences in foster care to identify and inform priorities, and offer ideas to improve child welfare policy

  • Educating policymakers and other stakeholders about their varied experiences in foster care

  • Analyzing effectiveness of programs and policies based on the experiences of youth in foster care

Step 2 (5 min)

The Family First Act and Mental Health Services - The passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 now provides states, tribes, and territories with the option to use federal child welfare funds for prevention activities, including mental health services. These services can be provided to children at imminent risk of placement into foster care, pregnant or parenting youth in foster care, and parents and/or relative caregivers of children at imminent risk. As mental health services are being implemented across the country, it’s critical for leaders to consider the perspectives of individuals who have first-hand experience with the child welfare system. Read this perspective paper from Family Voices United and see how people with lived experience in the child welfare system responded to the following question: “Would mental health services have helped your family stay together, or shortened time in the child welfare system?” 


*(Optional) The Family Voices United (FVU) campaign brings together the voices of young people, birth parents, and relative caregivers with lived experience in the child welfare system to drive change in foster care. Learn more about FVU here.

Step 3 (5 min)

The Need for Prevention Services - Read Isaiah’s (foster alumni from idaho) firsthand account of how prevention services could have prevented the breakup of his family, and his entry into foster care (PDF).

Step 4 (30 min)

Mental Health Supports - Listen to this podcast as Family Voices United members share their experiences on how mental health support can make a difference for families. Learn how constituents are taking action, getting involved, and building the movement!

Step 5 (5 min)

  • Join the Discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:


Should children at imminent risk of placement into foster care be allowed to stay with birth families/parent(s) while the parent(s) receive prevention services (e.g. mental health and substance use support/treatment)?

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Course Discussion

tiamnichols's picture

tiamnichols said:

Probably not. It should be looked at as a case by case basis. But overall I think that it is our jobs to keep the children safe and if there is known risk to going into foster care that it could be irresponsible to let them stay and possibly let something happen.
BRIDGETT GLENN's picture

BRIDGETT GLENN said:

no they should not
LauraScearce's picture

LauraScearce said:

I think this needs to be decided on a case by case basis. As long as the child's physical and mental health are not in critical situation directly as a result of the parent's mental health diagnosis or substance use I think staying in the home could be considered. For example, if the parent is depressed or has some substance use but has never brought it into the home, these cases have less of a chance of affecting the child. In these cases, I would advocate for the family staying together because of the extreme consequences that come with separating families. Receiving proper treatment for these issues could really turn the whole situation around- and quickly.
Truth and Love's picture

Truth and Love said:

Any kind of mental health service is on going for adults and children. I feel that day to day minute by minute step-by-step is the way to handle anything and everything.
jenita12's picture

jenita12 said:

WE think even with Mental services helping myfather it still wouldnt have helped out in the long run every one has different issues that are impossible to address ,know matter how hard you work.. I think knowing that . has made me a stronger and better person in the long run.
Lashunna's picture

Lashunna said:

Of course it always depends on the case but more services and research should be available to assess what's best for family and child.
Mrymason93's picture

Mrymason93 said:

I feel like even with Mental health services helping my biological father it still wouldnt have helped out in the long run with his issues . I think that in a way being in foster care it has made me a stronger and better person