The Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) creates exciting new opportunities for child welfare practitioners to help keep children safely with their families. The law redirects federal funds to provide preventive services and, when foster care is needed, allows federal reimbursement for care in family settings and certain residential treatment programs for children with emotional and behavioral needs that require special treatment.
This paper from the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides guidance for state child welfare agencies on what to consider when developing a preventive practice model that aligns with the requirements of Family First, addresses the unique needs of families within local communities and ensures that selected programs and practices are feasible to implement with quality.
The proposed model includes three major components: evidence-based case management, targeted services to address risk and protective factors and evidence-based programs that meet the specific goals and needs of families.
While it is important to note the critical role of primary prevention in supporting children and families and reducing child abuse and neglect, this paper is focused on a preventive practice model for families who have already come to the attention of child welfare agencies, in accordance with Family First. Therefore, prevention is discussed in the context of preventing out-of-home placements for child welfare–involved children and youth, rather than primary prevention efforts aimed at stopping child abuse and neglect before it occurs.
The paper concludes with three case examples from state and local jurisdictions that are implementing key aspects of a preventive practice model.
A guide for developing a practice model to prevent kids from entering foster care
Findings & Stats
Evidence-Based Case Management
Establishing evidence-based case management standardizes core casework practice and ensures that families receive both consistent preventive case management services and customized services based on their needs and goals.
Defining Daily Interactions With Families
Practice models should define how practice unfolds at the level of daily interactions and provide detailed descriptions of the types of behaviors, activities and strategies caseworkers use with families, as well as other key partners in communities and systems.
Statements & Quotations
State child welfare agencies can leverage Family First requirements and available funding to reinvent their preventive services to promote improved and equitable outcomes for children and families.
The development and use of a preventive practice model is not a one-size-fits-all approach — it requires states to thoroughly assess and think critically about the best ways for their systems to organize to meet the needs of children and families in their local communities and context.