In early 2018, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). The act was endorsed and supported by the Trump Administration as part of their "human trafficking" mitigation efforts. The stated purpose of the act is to keep more children with parents who may be flawed--usually by substance abuse--by giving them in-home "services" that might help them to overcome addictions, allowing the children to stay in the home. The Act does not go into full effect until October, so it's obviously way, way too early to talk about whether it will make an impact or not.
But, what we can already see from some snippets that are available in the ethersphere that the changes are not going to go over that well with some "Child Protective" "Services" (CPS) personnel. (Cue the mini-violins.) Perhaps the state that this act will most dramatically effect is West Virginia, where 85% of children who are seized from their families are taken directly because of a substance abuse problem. West Virginia and Montana are the states with the highest rates of children in foster care or some other kind of CPS custody, and those are the two states we will examine in this brief article.
Here is the first link, on West Virginia's situation:
"Bill Crouch told state lawmakers Monday that federal legislation will let more children of parents with substance use disorders stay in their homes, where they'll be better off, instead of foster care. 'The federal government has always paid us only if we pull children from their homes,' Crouch said, 'so this is a huge change in how we’re able to deal with our child welfare problem'.”
While most comments about the act from West Virginia's CPS authorities are publicly positive, the fact that Trump's FFPSA effort is going to change the profit motive for CPS seizures, is obviously not going to sit well with some. Knowing what we know about the way CPS wastes resources and flouts most current legislation designed to reign in their power and to help families, October in West Virginia will be ground zero in determining what happens next. There had better be some serious effort made to track how this money actually gets spent, as you can bet that if CPS caseworkers are the decision makers as to who gets hows much and for what, there will be big problems.
In Montana--another rural state with some of the same problems as West Virginia--the resistance to the new program is far more blatant and obvious. Apparently, Montana's CPS is so addicted to child removal (and that federal pay check for doing so) that they are talking about seeking a waiver which will not permit the act to take effect for TWO YEARS from this October.
Here is that link:
..and an excerpt:
"Amidst a statewide child welfare crisis, with an unprecedented number of children in foster care and a severe shortage of adequate foster homes, Montana’s DPHHS has opted to delay implementation of new federal legislation designed to keep more children out of foster care...This is much needed in Montana, where we rank second in the nation for the highest number of children in foster care (16.8/1,000 children in MT vs. 5.8/1,000 children in U.S.). That’s nearly three times the national average...
Montana has paid for several studies to attempt to improve our child welfare system (in 2015 and 2017) so it's not news that we are failing our children. Yet in a letter dated December 2018, DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan indicated that Montana has "decided not to rush into implementation" and plans to implement the new legislation as late as October 2021..."
Then, just three days ago Montana CPS admitted: "The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) “is focused on ensuring a successful statewide implementation and has, like the majority of states, decided not to rush into implementation,” said the agency’s director, Sheila Hogan, in her letter. “DPHHS will work closely with community stakeholders and providers as we anticipate implementation by October 2021 or earlier.” (Source: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/youth-services-insider/montana-with-second-highest-foster-care-rate-in-country-likely-delaying-on-family-first-act)
You'll notice that Sheila neither mentions what other states are seeking a two-year delay (I see no evidence of that) or gives even the slightest smidgen of a hint as to why Montana can't stop seizing kids at the current rates for an extra two years. Now, as I've said, we don't know if the act will really work, and as with most other well-intended legislation, how and to what extent Montana will just ignore and skirt the law when their 30+-month self-granted hiatus from the new law is up. But, Montana citizens could demand specifics as to why that state can't get their act together any faster than this. I doubt they will though. We'll see.
Essentially, this is another welfare program--as well-intended as it may be. Usually, direct welfare such as this does not do much to "change lives" in practice, despite liberal promises. Again, if there is little oversight to exactly how this money is spent, who receives it, and whether it is making any real difference in the lives of children then it will have the strong potential of becoming just another federal government boondoggle.
Quoting again from the previous source:
"From the numbers, it is easy to see why DPHHS might want to delay any law that cut back on funds for group settings. The number of Montana foster youth in congregate care went up almost 50 percent between 2012 and 2016. Meanwhile, the amount of non-relative foster homes available is down from 884 to 647.
But one advocacy group in the state said the state is really not doing enough to keep families together, and that is the only way it will ever get a grip on the use of foster care. 'Montana has been facing a foster home shortage for several years now due to the skyrocketing numbers of children in care,' said Kelly Santiago, a board member for the Montana Child Protection Alliance (MCPA)..."
I agree with Kelly. It always boils down to the old maxim of "follow the money." I think CPS in Montana are not ready for their cash cow to just up and walk away.
While I am opposed to welfare programs, I can personally hesitantly endorse FFPSA if only for the fact that it INCREASES the public exposure to the need to re-empower families v.v. CPS, and because it might actually keep some kids out of the foster care system (and also the pedophile pipelines leading from CPS custody, nationwide.)
Still, I am going to adopt a "wait & see" attitude to the whole thing, as I am not the least bit confident that local CPS officials will do a good job using these fund as intended, or even-- if they do-- that they will make that much of a difference in seizure rates. What really has to change is, AGAIN, not the available resources, but CPS ATTITUDES AND CULTURE. While they still feel they have superior rights over families, this type of (probable) "feel-good" legislation that, as always, adds to the national debt, is not likely to do much.
We will see.