The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed into law in February 2018 and restructures the federal financing available for child welfare.  Most importantly, the new law 1) limits the length of stay for children and youth in congregate care settings and 2) loosens restrictions on Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to pay for services that may allow children to stay with their families rather than enter foster care.  

Limits to length of stay in congregate care settings

The legislation also directs federal reimbursements to support placements in families and shortens dramatically the amount of time that children can live in congregate care facilities.  When foster care is deemed necessary, FFPSA allows federal reimbursement for family-based settings and certain residential treatment programs for children with emotional and behavioral disturbances that require special treatment.  The services may be provided for a year to children who are at imminent risk of entering foster care, their parents and relatives to assist the children, and pregnant or parenting teens. Federal funding is limited to children in family foster homes, qualified residential treatment programs, and special treatment settings for pregnant or parenting teens, youth 18 and over preparing to transition from foster care to adulthood, and youth who have been found to be – or are at-risk of becoming – sex trafficking victims.

Changes in IV-E restrictions and available prevention services

FFPSA eases that restriction of funds and provides services for parents whose children are at-risk for foster care. Funded services (starting in FY 2020) include mental health and substance abuse treatment and in-home skill-based parenting services.  Since 1980, Title IV-E could be used by child welfare agencies for services and supports only after a child was removed from the home (unless a state had a Title IV-E waiver, allowing more flexible use of the funds).  The new legislation makes available earlier in the process federal money that agencies formerly had to wait to spend on foster care.  Approximately one-quarter of child welfare agency spending is funded by Title IV-E and the easing of restrictions makes available some of this money for preventive services.

Other provisions of the FFPSA

In addition to the limits on congregate care and the easing of restrictions that will allow more preventative services, other key elements of the new law include:

  • cuts to adoption assistance;
  • extends incentives for Adoption and Guardianship;
  • lifts time limits on funding services towards reunification if a child is placed in foster care;
  • adds a 50% match on any funds spent by a state for a kinship navigator program that has earned the promising/supported/well-supported status;
  • requires states to participate in a new “electronic interstate case-processing system” by 2027;
  • obliges states to certify or waive for relatives HHS model licensing standards for foster family homes, expected in October 2018;
  • adds the “support and retention” of foster families as a newly defined service (including money to recruit and retain foster parents);
  • requires states to implement a plan to prevent deaths due to maltreatment and compile complete and accurate information on maltreatment-related deaths;
  • raises eligibility threshold for foster care until age 23; and
  • provides additional money for states and raises age limit to 26 for youth out-of-care for college expenses.

Want to learn more about FFPSA? Read Chronicle of Social Change analysis here

Click here to view the full-text of the bill

Additional questions? Please contact Angelique Day,, Assistant Professor, or Alex McCollum,, MSW Intern, School of Social Work, University of Washington