In 2018, Congress passed the landmark bipartisan Family First Prevent Services Act, representing the most significant reform in decades to federal child welfare policy. Included in the Act are historic provisions meant to keep children safely within their families and avoid the traumatic experience of a foster care situation.
The legislation emphasizes the importance of children remaining in a family setting and ensures that children are placed in the least restrictive situation possible. In the past, federal money was given to states through Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act to provide funds only after children were removed from the home. Now, that same funding is available for services that keep children safely at home with their families.
Family First also calls on states to drastically rethink their approach to family support and child protection. Many states have responded in kind, including ours with the Connecticut Family First Prevention Plan.
Connecticut Family First Prevention Plan
The state of Connecticut’s child welfare system believes that children are best served when they are safely in their own homes. Instead of focusing solely on surveillance and enforcement, the agency has promised to take an approach that emphasizes support for families through a community-based effort.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) will still be involved in identifying needs within homes. But the agency states that its priority will be to keep children in the home whenever possible by leveraging community-based organizations, healthcare, behavioral health, housing, law enforcement, social services, and other available resources to produce the best outcomes for children, families, and their communities.
Eligibility for Preventative Services
One of the primary ways the state promises to leverage the new program is by creating a system to define who is eligible for services and funding. Connecticut has defined two groups of candidates:
- Those already “known-to-DCF” through current or prior involvement in the system or through a call to the Careline, and:
- Siblings of youth in foster care
- Families with accepted Careline calls
- Pregnant and parenting youth in foster care
- Referrals through a “community pathway.” These include:
- Children of incarcerated parents
- Trafficked youth
- Families accepted for voluntary care management
- Homeless or unstably housed youth and their families
- Youth who have exited foster care
- Youth who have chronic school attendance issues
- Families experiencing interpersonal violence
- Children or caregivers who have a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or a disability that impacts parenting
Initial Prevention Services
With this new program, Connecticut has established a broad range of empirically supported resources and services. The state has engaged sister agencies, providers, and advocates to develop and implement a full array of initial prevention services. Some of those services include:
- Functional Family Therapy– a mental health service available to youth ages 11-18 with emotional or behavioral problems and their families.
- Brief Strategic Family Therapy– mental health, substance abuse, and parent skills services available to youth ages 6-18 who are at risk of developing, or display, problem behaviors including delinquency, conduct problems, and substance use; and their families.
- Multisystemic Therapy– mental health and substance abuse therapy available to youth ages 12-17 with serious behavioral/emotional difficulties and their families.
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy– mental health therapy available to children ages 2-7 and their parents or caregivers.
- Nurse-Family Partnership– parent skill-based therapy available to low-income, first-time mothers of children ages 0-2.
Practice Improvement Opportunities
The Family First Prevention Plan has specific practice requirements that ensure the state has a process for assessing a family’s needs, monitoring child safety, and driving progress.
- Child-specific prevention plans– Once eligibility is confirmed, the DCF workers will engage families to assess their strengths and needs and partner with them to select the appropriate services.
- Addressing needs and monitoring safety – The agencies involved will continue to focus on safety by addressing the needs of children and families early and focusing on prevention and addressing family safety issues.
- Building workforce capacity – All workers will be trained using this new approach to keeping families together and providing support whenever possible.
Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney
Even though Connecticut is following the federal government’s lead with its new Family First Prevention Plan, that doesn’t mean DCF won’t get involved in the lives of parents and their children. If you’ve been accused of child abuse or neglect, your parental rights could still be in jeopardy, and you’ll want a strong legal advocate to guide you through the investigation process.
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, Attorney Christie has extensive knowledge of the applicable laws and procedures and years of experience working with DCF. Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 to schedule an initial consultation.