Children do better
in family situations
The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 officially will be implemented nationwide on July 1. Family First is the largest investment into the child welfare system in the past 40 years. It provides funding to states for prevention services concerning the removal of children from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Though social services departments do all they can to prevent children from entering foster care, the opioid epidemic is crippling agencies and necessitating action. With the new funding through Family First, prevention services such as mental health, substance use and in-home, parent skill-based programs can be provided to families to help make homes safe for children.
We know that foster care presents its own challenges for children. FosterVA (which provides training and support for foster parents) gives the following statistics of youth who were involved in foster care: 25% are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 40% experience homelessness, 71% of females become pregnant by age 21, 20% are arrested and only 49% graduate high school. We must set up our children for success. Family First will revolutionize the foster care system through restricting funding for nonfamily-based placements for youth who already are in care while simultaneously increasing funding for families whose children are at risk for entering foster care.
It will be a learning curve to implement these changes in a system that always has had challenges. I encourage readers to support family members who are struggling, to register as foster parents, and to support efforts to better children and families. We must remind ourselves of something we’ve known all along: Children do better in families. The family always should come first.
Abigail van Esselstyn.