Redlich Horwitz Foundation Releases New Guide and Online Clearinghouse for Counties to Prepare for the Family First Act
The Redlich Horwitz Foundation (RHF) is pleased to release our latest publication, “How Three New York Counties are Right-Sizing Congregate Care and Prioritizing Family-Based Care.” This new guide is designed to help New York and its counties place more children in foster care with kinship and foster families rather than in congregate care, thereby meeting both the intent and the letter of the new federal law, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). This guide explains the reform initiatives underway in Onondaga, Dutchess and Westchester Counties as they increase the percentage of children in foster care placed with well-supported kinship and foster families, which research shows leads to the best outcomes for children and families and also saves counties money. These case studies complement an online clearinghouse, www.FamilyFirstNY.org, which provides information, strategies and tools that local districts can use as they prepare for the implementation of the Family First Act.
“The release of this guide expands our commitment to collaborating with state, county and national partners to develop and scale strategies to reduce unnecessary congregate care placements and expedite permanency for our most vulnerable children,” said Sarah Chiles, executive director of RHF. “The reform efforts in these NY counties show that it is possible to achieve meaningful results in a short period of time.”
Counties across NY are making efforts to prepare for the new federal law. Passed in February 2018, the Family First Act shepherds in a renewed national focus on family-based foster care and preventive services. The new law will likely take effect in NY in 2021 and includes:
Limits on federal reimbursement for certain residential placements;
- Federally-funded preventive service provisions to keep families together;
- An option to extend foster-care supports to age 23;
- New federal funding opportunities for kin navigator programs; and
- An expansion of Education and Training Vouchers up to age 26.
“We quickly realized that kinship foster care is the answer for so many reasons: well-supported kin is not only the best alternative to group care, but it’s where the kids want to be, with family,” says John Befus, First Deputy Commissioner of Westchester County Department of Social Services. “Congregate care is meant to be temporary, but it became a destination for too many young people.” Since 2016, congregate care placements in Westchester County have declined by 44%.
“We set aggressive goals,” explains James Czarniak, Deputy Commissioner of Onondaga County Children and Family Services. “When you know your resources and where you are going, you can start making change.” Because of his team’s efforts, Onondaga County saved $6 million and invested $1 million back into family support services. Today, 75% of Onondaga County’s foster children are being raised in loving and safe homes, an increase from 66% in one year.
To access this county case studies guide and more information on the Family First Act, visit www.FamilyFirstNY.org. This clearinghouse has strategies, tools and templates to assist counties as they work to increase family-based care. County staff and the public can also sign up to receive updates on new resources and request funding and technical assistance.