The Winds of Change

Drifting Thoughts Regarding the Future of Foster-Care In Alabama

There is a brand new Foster-Care system on the horizon… maybe.

When the Bipartisan Budget Act was approved on February 9, 2018 the Family First Prevention Services Act became law.  

There has been a lot of chatter about this act. USA Today said “It’s the most extensive overhaul of foster care in nearly four decades.”

The Family First Act calls for a radical change to the foster-care system. Change is needed but only time will tell if this change will be everything the proponents think it will be.  There are some pros, and some cons.

Basically, the overall goal is to prevent children from being removed from their families and entering the foster-care system unnecessarily. This is good. The goals are to fund these three areas of preventive care BEFORE removing the child;

  • At-home Parenting Classes
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Substance Abuse Treatment

This could be a good move. Removing children from their families, even if the family is chaotic and maladaptive, still creates further trauma for the child. So much better if we can treat the family as an intact unit without creating more trauma for all.

The other part of the legislation regards congregate care, or group homes and residential treatment facilities.

There has been extensive funding available to these institutions in the past to provide care for the children and adolescents placed with them. Now there will be extreme limits on funding. Children will only be able to remain in a congregate care setting for two weeks except under specific circumstances.

Most of the youth that Second Shift serves come out of residential settings. Most of the older foster-care children in Alabama are in congregate care.

There are many twists and turns to this law and the possible effects it will have on the way we care for kids.

I will explain how this is likely to play out and share my thoughts and ponderings in future articles in this series. Stay tuned.

By Tammy Spence LMSW, CCTP Executive Director

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