As most of you know, the federal government passed the Bipartisan Budget Act in February 2018, which included the Families First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). FFPSA is meant to be a sweeping change in child welfare and provides a new option for states and some Tribes to claim Title IV-E funds for prevention services as early as October 2019. 

Part of FFPSA establishes new requirements regarding placement of children in foster care – allowable placements will be facilities for pregnant and parenting youth, supervised independent living for youth 18 and older, specialized placements for victims of or at-risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking, and family foster homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Model Foster Parent Licensing Standards, and Colorado will have to identify how ours differ and why (which may lead to updated licensing standards for consistency). 

Title IV-E foster care maintenance funds will also be available for children placed with their parent in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility. Funding for evidence-based prevention services can extend up to 12 months for a family, and there is not a limit to how many times a child and family can receive prevention services. There are currently 12 services being reviewed by the FFPSA Clearinghouse to determine if they qualify as Evidence Based Services (EBS), which requires that they be trauma-informed and promising, supported or well-supported practices. 

Title IV-E reimbursement (of up to 50%) for eligible prevention services can begin October 1, 2019. However, a state must also implement Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) provisions in the act in order to draw down the prevention funding. Under FFPSA, Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments will be available to children and youth in congregate care for only 14 days unless they are eligible youth placed in a QRTP. Delay of QRTP implementation is allowed for up to two years, but such delay will prevent the state from accessing the prevention services funding as well.

A QRTP must be a licensed and accredited program with a trauma informed treatment model, a registered or licensed nursing staff and other licensed clinical staff on site. QRTPs must provide outreach and engagement of the child’s family in their treatment plan and provide discharge planning and family-based aftercare for at least 6 months. Within 30 days of a child/youth’s placement in a QRTP, there must be an independent third-party assessment to determine the appropriateness of the placement. The Court provides oversight of the placement decision, including a review of the assessment and treatment plan within 60 days, and on an ongoing basis. Any QRTP placements longer than 6 months for children under 13, or longer than 12 months for children over 13, must be tracked by the state and the Director of CDHS must approve continued placement. Although this requirement does not apply to juvenile justice systems, FFPSA requires states to avoid increased youth involvement in those systems due to implementation of the plan. Colorado has yet to determine how data related to this requirement will be tracked and how this requirement will be enforced. 

FFPSA also provides Title IV-E support to evidence-based Kinship Navigator programs. reauthorizes the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Programs, requires all states to implement the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE) to assist with ICPC, and modernizes and reauthorizes the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program until Fiscal Year 2021. With this modernization, the age youth can be served through Chafee programs is extended to 23, and eligibility for Educational Training Vouchers is extended to 26.

A lot of work is being done in Colorado to plan for implementation of FFPSA, and the OCR has been participating in these efforts. The OCR is a member of the FFPSA Advisory Council, which formed the FFPSA Compression Planning Team and three subgroups. The work of those groups led to the creation of the Colorado FFPSA Roadmap. In addition, the Colorado Legislature passed SB18-254, which created the Delivery of Child Welfare Services Taskforce, tasked, in part, with implementation of FFPSA in Colorado. The OCR’s Executive Director Chris Henderson sits on the Taskforce, which formed the FFPSA Implementation Team. Ashley Chase is the Co-Chair of the FFPSA Implementation Team. Sheri Danz is a member of the FFPSA Legislative review committee, tasked with analyzing Title 19 and other Colorado statutes that will be impacted by FFPSA. Within these larger groups, there are subgroups tackling specific issues such as the definition of candidacy, what the assessment tool should be, and how Colorado will define a trauma informed model of care and oversee such a model. The OCR has been active at every step and will continue to participate in the FFPSA efforts in Colorado. We will also be hosting a training webinar on FFPSA in May – see your Training Tuesdays emails for further details!