Building Blocks for Success: Family First Prevention Services Act

Building Blocks for Success: Family First Prevention Services Act

Family First Prevention Services Act

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) of 2018 enacted funding for time-limited prevention services for mental health, substance abuse and in-home parent skill-based programs for children or youth, providing more resources to help families in crisis stay together. Title IV-E funds previously could be used only to help with the costs of foster care maintenance for eligible children and administrative costs.

With the Family First Prevention Services Act states, territories and tribes with an approved Title IV-E plan can use the funds for prevention services that would allow children who are at risk of being placed in state custody to safely stay with their parents or relatives.  A written, trauma-informed prevention plan must be created and services will need to be evidence-based.

As a Family First grantee, Kansas was one of the first adopters of this program. Our existing 14-year-old Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program was a perfect fit. FFT is an evidence-based, short-term, in-home, therapeutic intervention focused on helping families build healthier, more stable relationships by motivating, encouraging change and reducing negativity. As a short-term treatment strategy that is built on a foundation of respect of individuals, families and cultures, but that includes powerful treatment methods, the program paves the way for motivating individuals and families to become more adaptive and successful in their own lives.

FFPSA legislation allowed us to expand the number of youth we serve. By connecting families to resources and offering direct intervention, we are able to provide a supportive and structured environment. FFT has proven that it not only helps families but it prevents crime and victimization in our neighborhoods.

David Irwin, our FFT implementation manager, believes in therapeutic intervention, to keep children from being removed from their family and placed in state custody.

I am grateful that Kansas is an early adopter of the FFPSA opportunity to reduce the numbers of children going into foster care via well-supported evidence-based interventions (including FFT).”

Joshua’s* Success Story

When intervention began with fourteen-year-old Joshua* he was not attending school and entered the FFT program due to truancy. School attendance made Joshua anxious and staying home playing video games was where he felt safe.

Joshua’s parents are divorced and he lives with his mother. Both his parents were frustrated with Joshua’s behavior and with each other. When an FFT therapist started work with Joshua and his mom the first step was to understand the family situation, reduce stress and build motivation. Once this step was in place it was time to start the behavior change phase by practicing new skills. Joshua and his mom had been at odds for so long that exploring new behaviors and practicing new skills brought a sense of relief for both of them. Abandoning old patterns, they started doing things differently.

Joshua started attending school and, while he wasn’t always perfect, his mom began to feel encouraged. The final stage was applying new skill sets in other settings and with dad. With Joshua back in school and access to resources and tools to utilize if Joshua backslides, the family felt equipped to move forward on their own.

With seven therapists and three managers on staff, the Functional Family Therapy team, at last count, has worked with 107 families since going live in October 2019. The program serves youth ages 11 – 17 and works with the whole family over a 12 – 14 week period to reduce risk and entry into foster care and has had 18 successful completions.

Continuing services during a pandemic presents its own challenges. Utilizing tele-health, frontline staff work tirelessly providing effective therapeutic intervention. “In these challenging times, we have developed a new working partnership to help at-risk families, says David Irwin. “It’s my hope we can come along side these families and help make everything go better. We are privileged we can join in their process to motivate and practice behaviors, assuring they can go on and make changes and feel better for it.”

Learn more about Functional Family Therapy by visiting our website.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.