AUSTIN – Today the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a paper, The Texas Two-Step: Community-Based Care and the Family First Prevention Services Act. 

“As the compliance deadline for the federal Family First Act approaches, the Texas Legislature must make important decisions on how to advance child welfare reform,” said Andrew Brown, distinguished senior fellow of child and family policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Lawmakers should take a thoughtful, fiscally responsible approach to making these decisions that prioritize the expansion and improvement of the community-based care reforms that are already proving successful at improving outcomes for at-risk children and their families.” 

In 2017, the Texas Legislature enacted a historic reform of the state’s child protective and foster care systems known as community-based care, which is designed to make the system more responsive to the needs of children by increasing the role of local private and nonprofit charities. One year later, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which attempts to shift the focus from removing children from families and toward preventing entry into foster care instead. While FFPSA provides a catalyst for this long overdue change, the law presents numerous challenges for states wishing to take advantage of its provisions allowing federal funds to be used for prevention efforts.  

“While challenging, implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act in concert with expanding community-based care provides Texas with the opportunity to become a model of successful child welfare reform for the nation,” said Charissa Huntzinger, director of TPPF’s Government for the People Campaign. 

Key points: 

  • The upcoming implementation deadline for the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) will require the 87th Legislature to make critical decisions impacting the future of the state’s child welfare system.
  • Texas lawmakers must take care to preserve and advance successful reforms already achieved through community-based care, which have improved outcomes for at-risk children and their families.
  • Challenges associated with FFPSA implementation along with a projected budget shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unanswered questions about how the new law will operate should cause Texas lawmakers to proceed with caution.
  • Regardless of how the 87th Legislature chooses to achieve FFPSA compliance, it should be done in a fiscally responsible manner that prioritizes the expansion and improvement of community-based care. 

To read the paper in full, please visit: 

https://files.texaspolicy.com/uploads/2020/07/07101100/Huntzinger-Brown-Texas-Child-Welfare.pdf