Federal Programs to Preserve Families

Over the 22 years of its existence, the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) has advocated for federal programs to preserve families. The first was the Family Preservation and Support Services Program enacted by Congress in 1993.

This federal program was later changed to Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF). The PSSF program was most recently reauthorized in 2011 for a period of five years. There are currently four categories of services that can be funded through PSSF:

  • Family preservation services
  • Family support services
  • Time-limited family reunification services
  • Adoption promotion and support services

For FY 2013 the total amount of funding was approximately $310.8 million. States are required to spend 20% for each of the four categories unless they provide a rationale for spending less. Administrative costs cannot exceed 10%. The following chart shows how states planned to allocate expenditures for the most recent fiscal year:

Promoting Safe and Stable Families FY 2013 Planned Expeditures

In addition to the four categories of funding, the PSSF program also provides funding to ensure that children in foster care are visited monthly by their caseworkers, grants to increase the well-being and permanency of children affected by substance abuse, and authorization for up to 10 new child welfare waiver demonstration projects per year (Title IV-E Waivers).

Federal child welfare waivers are important because they allow states more flexible use of federal funds to improve child welfare services. Funds that ordinarily would be used only for children in out-of-home placement can also be used for preventive services.

Casey Family Programs has been one of the strongest advocates of Title IV-E Waivers. Here are their findings reported for the outcome of Florida’s waiver:

“The implementation of Florida’s IV-E waiver began in October 2006. Florida is a privatized child welfare system in which 20 lead agencies manage service delivery in Florida’s 67 counties. These lead agencies have funded a wide array of prevention and early intervention services, as well as services designed to find permanent families for children in foster care who cannot safely be returned to birth parents.

“Most lead agencies have expanded diversion services, including intensive in-home services that utilize a family team approach and that support families through a variety of educational and concrete services, such as homemaker services. Florida’s lead agencies have also made major new investments in family team meetings and enhanced relative search, and in specialized staff who expedite permanency planning and ensure that children are placed in permanent homes that can meet their needs.

“Florida’s foster care population declined from almost 29,000 children in FY 2006, when the waiver agreement was signed, to 18,534 children in care in February 2010, a reduction of more than one-third in less than four years. Some Florida counties have reduced their foster care populations by 50 to 60 percent since the waiver was implemented. It is apparent that Florida’s lead agencies have developed a new paradigm of child protection based on strengthening in-home services to children and families. It is extremely encouraging that during the timeframe that entries decreased, maltreatment recurrence also declined significantly and is currently consistent with the national average.”

Thus two key federal programs, PSSF and Title IV-E Waivers, have provided ongoing funding and positive results for family preservation.

(Eileen West, ACF/Children’s Bureau, contributed information about the PSSF program.)

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