H.R. 5456, Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016

H.R. 5456

Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016

Committee
Ways and Means

Date
June 21, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5456, the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5456 was introduced on June 13, 2016, by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on June 15, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5456 amends parts B and E of Title IV of the Social Security Act to invest in funding prevention and family services to help keep children safe and supported at home, to ensure that children in foster care are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like, and appropriate settings, and for other purposes. Specifically, this bill would:

  • Give states increased flexibility to use federal foster care funds to provide upfront, evidence-supported prevention services.
  • End federal reimbursement when states inappropriately place minors in non-family settings.
  • Reauthorizes the Regional Partnership Grant program that provides funding to state and local evidence-based services aimed at preventing child abuse and child neglect due to parental substance abuse.
  • Encourages states to adopt electronic child placement systems (this provision is similar to H.R. 4472, the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act, which passed the House by voice vote on March 22, 2016).
  • Supports transition to adulthood for foster care youth up to age 23 by providing training and education vouchers.
  • Continues existing child welfare services by extending for five years the Promoting Safe and Stable Families and Child Welfare Services Programs as we as the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments.
  • Provides resources and reduces the regulatory load for family members who unexpectedly assume responsibility for the minor. [1]

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[1] See Committee on Ways and Means Report, “Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016.”

Background

The U.S. foster care system through which a minor who has been declared a ward is placed in an institution, group care facility, or in the home of a private system (“Foster Parent”). This process is primarily conducted through state governments and social-service agencies. On any given day there are around 400,000 minors in the U.S. foster care system.[1] In return for their services caregivers are remunerated for costs and expenses by local municipalities, state governments, and the federal Social Security Administration.[2]

The Social Security Act contains the primary sources of funds available to states for child welfare, foster care, and adoption activities. These funds include both nonentitlement appropriation authorizations and authorized entitlements. The foster care program is a permanently authorized entitlement that provides open-ended matching payments to states for the costs of maintaining certain children in foster care, and associated administrative, child placement, and training costs.[3]

The majority of these funds are provided after the child has been removed from their families and are placed in the foster care system. However, there is limited funding available for preventative care measures. For example, the system often takes away minors from their parents for substance abuse. There however are relatively few resources in the Social Security administration to take proactive and preventative measures to address substance abuse and eliminate the need for child removal from the original home.[4] This bill attempts to resolve this issue by allowing Social Security funds to be used for preventative, proactive purposes.

According to the bill’s sponsor, “We know that strong families make for strong communities. That’s why the Family First Prevention Services Act is so important given the current opioid and heroin crisis. This bill is a departure from an outdated system that focuses on caring for children only after they enter into foster care, and instead invests in proven prevention services, including substance abuse treatment, that will keep families together. This legislation offers the types of support that parents need to provide the safe and stable home every child deserves.”[5]

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[1] See “Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2014.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.” July 2015.
[2] See CRS Report, “Child Welfare: Program Eligibility and Funding for the Title IV-E Programs.” October 26, 2012.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Committee on Ways and Means Press Release, “Buchanan Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Strengthen America’s Families.” June 13, 2016.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has preliminarily estimated that the cost of the upfront prevention services to strengthen families would be more than fully offset by reducing inappropriate group home placements and the short delay in providing additional funding to states for adoption assistance to allow the GAO review to be completed.[1]

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[1] See Committee on Ways and Means Report, “Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016.”

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.