New Toolkit on Implementing Normalcy Provisions of Strengthening Families Act

Posted February 7, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

As states enter the second year of implementing the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (SFA), they are finding that while much work remains, the law provides an extraordinary opportunity to improve the lives of youth and families involved in the child welfare system by enabling these young people to have similar normal growing-up experiences to their peers not in foster care.

Advancing SFA — a toolkit developed by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative in partnership with the Juvenile Law Center — is designed to help child welfare practitioners, advocates and policymakers effectively implement SFA’s normalcy provisions, a section of the law that aims to provide a much-needed boost to improving overall well-being for young people in foster care by giving youth and their foster parents greater authority to make decisions and build critical relationships.

The toolkit — which is a guide for comprehensive implementation that supports jurisdictions in eliminating barriers to achieving this outcome — includes the following components:

  • A summary of the basic legal requirements;
  • A set of 13 recommendations for achieving effective implementation;
  • Policy examples, including existing law, regulation and policy guidance, as well as proposed policy language;
  • An appendix that includes excerpts of model policies.

Policies and practices that support connecting youth with activities and people in their communities help youth make a successful transition to adulthood and the types of long lasting relationships that lead to permanency and supportive adult connections. Specifically, SFA’s normalcy provision:

  • Requires states to implement a “reasonable and prudent parent” standard that allows caregivers to make more daily decisions for young people in their care;
  • Mandates child welfare systems engage all young people in their case planning beginning at age 14; and
  • Eliminates the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for children under 16, as well as the addition of case planning and oversight requirements when APPLA is used.

For more information about this topic, read the Foundation’s recent issue brief, What Young People Need to Thrive: Leveraging the Strengthening Families Act to Promote Normalcy.