The future of the Family First Prevention Services Act remains unclear. The House bill was re-introduced at the start of this Congress as a placeholder for future House action with House members waiting to see what the Senate can agree to.
The Congress does have to re-authorize the two Title IV-B programs, Child Welfare Services (part 1), and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (part 2). The FY 2017 appropriations just signed into law continues both of those programs until September 30.
Discussions are going on behind closed doors in the Senate but what direction the legislation could or will take is unclear. By December of last year more modifications have been made to the House-passed Families First Act but more objections were raised by senators from different states. The most contentious parts of the bill revolved around the definitions and requirements for non-family foster care settings.
If a revised version of the bill is developed the next hurdle will be how to pay for it. Part of the offset in last year’s bill relied on a delay of the last two phase-out years of the AFDC eligibility link to Adoption Assistance. Starting this October 1, all special needs adoptions will be eligible for federal funding. Now all special needs adoptions 2 years of age and older are covered regardless of the AFDC link.
Congress has a number of health and human services programs that must be reauthorized this fiscal year. These programs include the CHIP program, Home Visiting and several health related “extenders” such as community health centers. Some Congressional offices may be pushing to use the Social Services Block Grant as an offset—something CWLA will adamantly oppose. The elimination of $1.7 billion in human services funding in exchange for keeping other human services funding at the same level or slightly more would be a bad deal for tight state budgets and even worse for the families and adults currently helped by those SSBG services.