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

LindsayMeyer's picture

LindsayMeyer said:

I don't believe there is one right and one wrong answer to that question. If a child is safe at home and the parent is willing to receive help for services, then there is a possibility that remaining at home is the best possibility. There would have to be a lot of supports in place though. It would also depend on the age and development of the child.
ktrickel's picture

ktrickel said:

If the child is able to be safe in the home, then I do not believe that the child should be removed. I think that every measure to keep the family together should be taken, even if the family or parents are receiving services. That shows that these families and parents are willing to work to keep their children in the home, and they should be afforded that option.
Cheferin84's picture

Cheferin84 said:

The safety of the child should always be the first priority.
briancampbell7066's picture

briancampbell7066 said:

It should be done, but only as long as it is safe for the child to be in the home and as long there is adequate support for the families to receive treatment.
tenawest89's picture

tenawest89 said:

I believe children should be placed in a safe environment at all costs if such a placement is available.
mikenjulieclarke71@gmail.com's picture

mikenjulieclark... said:

depends on severity of the case
mikenjulieclarke73@gmail.com's picture

mikenjulieclark... said:

depends on severity of the case
Mranda83's picture

Mranda83 said:

Depends on age, case and well being of the child.
tmmhndrsn's picture

tmmhndrsn said:

families need as much support as possible to succeed and get their children back. I think we need more mental health supports for children and families during and after going home.
judilynbrooks's picture

judilynbrooks said:

I would like to see us evolve to a system that provides wraparound services (e.g.- assistance finding safe housing, mental health counselors and stable employment) in addition to the traditional services of parenting classes would help substantially with family preservation.