NCSL’s Child Welfare Legislative Policy Network Newsletter | Double Issue


FFPSA: State Legislative Activity

State policy surrounding the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is taking shape across the country. Since its passage in 2018, 11 states have introduced 16 bills related to the federal act. Legislators in Nebraska introduced Bill 328, which seeks to define “candidate for foster care,” “qualified residential treatment program (QRTP),” and “prevention plan.” It also creates a kinship navigator program, provides for written notice of rights for parents and relative caregivers, creates a family and permanency team for children placed in QRTPs, and much more. In 2018, Colorado lawmakers passed Senate Bill 18-254, which requires the state department to project the fiscal impact of FFPSA. Visit NCSL’s Family First Prevention Services Act page to review other introduced and enacted legislation.

FFPSA: Prevention Services and Programs

The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has contracted with Abt Associates to determine which prevention services and programs will be designated as evidence-based under FFPSA and to create a Title IV-E prevention-services clearinghouse. To be eligible for reimbursement, services must be described in state prevention plans, components of the service must be outlined in a manual, and the service must show a clear benefit. In addition, services must meet one of the following thresholds:

a)      Promising Practice: A service or program will be rated as a promising practice if the service or program has, according to at least one study, earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution and demonstrates a favorable effect on at least one target outcome.

b)      Supported Practice: A service or program will be rated as a supported practice if the service or program has, according to at least one study carried out in a usual care or practice setting, earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution and demonstrates a sustained favorable effect of at least six months beyond the end of treatment on at least one target outcome.

c)       Well-Supported Practice: A service or program will be rated as a well-supported practice if the service or program, according to at least two studies with non-overlapping analytic samples carried out in a usual care or practice setting, earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution. At least one of the studies must demonstrate a sustained favorable effect of at least 12 months beyond the end of treatment on at least one target outcome.

d)      Does Not Currently Meet Criteria: A service or program will be rated as “does not currently meet criteria” if the service or program has been reviewed and does not currently meet the evidence criteria for promising, supported, or well-supported practices.

The first services and programs selected for review by Abt Associates are listed below. Eligibility will be determined by spring 2019.

Mental Health:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
  • Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Multisystemic Therapy
  • Functional Family Therapy

Substance Abuse:

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Multisystemic Therapy
  • Families Facing the Future
  • Methadone Maintenance Therapy

In-Home Parent Skill-Based Programs:

  • Nurse-Family Partnership
  • Healthy Families America
  • Parents as Teachers

Kinship Navigator Programs:

  • Children’s Home Society of New Jersey Kinship Navigator Model
  • Children’s Home Inc. Kinship Interdisciplinary Navigation Technologically-Advanced Model (KIN-Tech)

FFPSA: Kinship Care Navigator Programs

Kinship navigator programs connect grandparents and other relatives raising children to benefits and supports they or the children need by providing information, referrals and follow-up services. As of Oct. 1, 2018, agencies are eligible to claim 50% Federal Financial Participation (FFP) for allowable evidence-based kinship navigator program costs.

Program instructions released in November 2018, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarified that Title IV-E agencies should define kinship caregiver for the purposes of their program and determine the populations to be served. According to HHS, children need not be candidates for foster care, nor must all counties, geographic locations, state or tribal service areas be served.

Title IV-E agencies must submit an attachment to their Title IV-E plan that specifies the evidence-based kinship navigator model it has chosen and the date on which the program will begin. Additionally, agencies must provide a brief narrative describing:

  • The target population and service area for the program.
  • How the Title IV-E agency plans to implement the kinship navigator program (e.g., directly or through contracted service providers).
  • How the program is coordinated with other state or local agencies that promote service coordination or provide information and referral services.
  • How the development and operation of the program has been and will be informed by consultation with kinship caregivers and organizations representing them, youth raised by kinship caregivers, relevant government agencies, and relevant community-based or faith-based organizations.

To learn more about federal requirements for evidence-based kinship navigators services costs provided through Family First, review the Nov. 30, 2018 Program Instruction.

FFPSA: Model Licensing Standards

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the National Model Foster Family Home Licensing Standards for meeting the unique geographical, cultural, community, legal and other needs of states and tribes. According to the new standards, Title IV-E agencies may waive non-safety licensing standards for relative foster family homes. By March 31, 2019, Title IV-E agencies were to have submitted a Title IV-E plan amendment providing specific information about:

  • Whether the agency foster family home licensing standards are consistent with the final model licensing standards identified by HHS and if not, the reason for the differences and,
  • Whether the agency waives non-safety licensing standards for relative foster family homes, and if so, how caseworkers are trained to use the waiver authority and whether the agency has developed a process or provided tools to assist caseworkers in waiving these non-safety standards to quickly place children with relatives.

A link to the National Model Foster Family Home Licensing Standards can be found here.

Child Welfare Fellows Meeting and Webinar

In November 2018, over 20 legislators and legislative staff came together in Santa Fe, N.M., to participate in the second Child Welfare Fellows meeting.

The meeting opened with an update on the accomplishments of the various Fellows and child welfare-related activities in their states. The remaining sessions included a panel of birth parents, foster parents and foster care alum, an overview of research on child maltreatment prevention, a look at New Mexico’s work to use data for improved results in child welfare and information on the federal Family First Act.

Day two included a look at vulnerable populations, including Native American populations and older foster youth transitioning out of foster care, an examination of state efforts to increase child welfare caseworker recruitment and retention, and an overview of specialized infant and toddler courts. The meeting concluded with the Fellows updating action plans developed in the July kick-off meeting to tackle important issues in their states. See the presentations here.

In February, NCSL hosted a Child Welfare Fellows webinar titled: Addressing the Educational Needs of Children and Youth in Foster Care. Kristen Kelly, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, discussed how states can create an education system to help overcome some of the barriers to success that children in care often face.

NCSL’s 2018 Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia enacted more than 400 bills addressing child welfare issues in 2018. NCSL tracks enactments in the following topic areas:

Administration/oversight/interagency collaboration

Health and mental/behavioral health


Infant abandonment

Child fatality/near fatality

Kinship care

Child protection


Child sex trafficking/exploitation

Reporting of child abuse

Courts and legal representation

Services for older youth

Education of children in foster care


Foster care

Termination of parental rights



Infant abandonment



Child protection topped the list with more than 200 enactments in 41 states. Foster care was next with 167 bills from 35 states and the District of Columbia. Opioids and substance abuse were addressed in 12 enactments. To view bill summaries and links to legislation from 2012-2018, visit NCSL’s Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database.

Medicaid 101

Medicaid is an essential funding source for foster care systems. Casey Family Programs Medicaid 101 webinar is an opportunity for state leaders to increase their understanding of key elements of Medicaid, including populations served and services covered, how it can support children with behavioral health needs and innovative approaches to using Medicaid funding to support children in care.

Child Maltreatment: 2017 Data Available

The Children’s Bureau’s annual Child Maltreatment report looks at annual and trend data surrounding child maltreatment in the United States. According to the most recent report, the estimated number of allegations of child maltreatment from 2016 to 2017 remained stable at 4.1 million. Legislators and legislative staff can use the state-specific data to assess the challenges facing their communities, and when combined with previous maltreatment reports, can understand the impacts of policies over time.

Integrating Approaches that Prioritize and Enhance Father Engagement

A 2018 joint Information Memorandum from multiple federal health and human services agencies encourages meaningful father engagement across all government programs to better serve children and families. The memorandum includes research on the topic and identifies promising practices. Research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that children who grow up with involved fathers are 80% less likely to spend time in jail, 60% less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and twice as likely to go to college and find stable employment after high school.

Building Partnerships to Support Stable Housing for Child Welfare-Involved Families and Youth

Issues related to housing and homelessness are increasingly becoming a priority for legislators; however, preventing housing instability and homelessness for families attempting to reunify with their children or whose children are at risk of placement in out-of-home care is often not part of the discussion. The Child Welfare Information Gateway has a comprehensive library of programs and analysis on the intersection of housing and foster care system, including a recent publication on creative uses of federal funding to address the issue. The bulletin discussed how affordable housing programs, homeless services and child welfare systems can collaborate to create better outcomes for children and families.

News Across the States


A Little Rock attorney has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 as it pertains to a Sebastian County adoption case.

March 24, 2019 CONTINUE


The downtown Napa Courage Center has been a one-stop shop for interviews and exams of more than 700 children, most of whom were victims of sexual abuse, since it opened a decade ago. Now, center leaders are looking to expand the program and serve more child victims who experience physical abuse, witness domestic violence or live in homes where drug use is rampant with a $200,000 grant from the state Office of Emergency Services.

March 28, 2019 CONTINUE


Adams County in Colorado is creating an affordable housing complex that will set aside 12 units to help young adults who have aged out of foster care.

Feb. 25, 2019 CONTINUE


Two new human trafficking bills have been introduced in Delaware. One of the bills would prohibit the conviction of anyone younger than 18 for prostitution identifying them as victims rather than accomplices. Another bill would allow someone arrested or convicted of a crime, other than a violent felony, as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking to pursue expungement of that record. One of the bills would also urge more public awareness signs about human trafficking to be posted at specific locations, like strip clubs.

March 26, 2019 CONTINUE


The Indiana Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would ban the release of details in child neglect or abuse deaths to safeguard criminal cases.

March 27, 2019 CONTINUE


Kansas introduced a bill that would add religious leaders, regardless of religion, to already existing laws that require teachers, social workers, firefighters, police, psychologists, therapists and other professionals to relay information of possible sexual assaults and other abuse to law enforcement.

March 13, 2019 CONTINUE


Thousands of children are without homes in Mississippi, and Rescue 100 is on a mission to change that.

March 25, 2019 CONTINUE


Under a new policy change, Nebraska child welfare workers are no longer allowed to conduct drug testing on parents being investigated for abuse or neglect.

Feb. 27, 2019 CONTINUE


Ohio is urging more people to become foster parents to meet the growing need for safe places for abused and neglected children.

March 13, 2019 CONTINUE

West Virginia

Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a bill that transfers the state's foster care and adopted children to a managed care organization.

March 26, 2019 CONTINUE