An interesting question.
Over the next few weeks, we will be seeing an array of articles and opinions on just what this legislation is and is not and what that means. Some of it will be accurate, some exaggerated and some downright wrong.
There will be those that will claim kudos for assisting in the authoring of this bill. All I can say is watch their timeline over several pieces that they write. Time becomes inconsistent when a falsehood is being perpetrated.
There was a delegation of parents and grandparents who made the pilgrimage to the Capital on this legislation. I don’t know all their names so I won’t do the ones that I don’t know disjustice by naming the ones I do. Over the last three years, there has been between 20 to 30. I don’t know exactly how involved any of them might have been in the actual legislation.
It has even been alleged that I helped author it. To that, I say, “While I champion the FFA, had I contributed there would be more accountability.”
I tend to agree with this first article.One of the earliest articles was by NCCPR’s Executive Director, Richard Wexler:
Don’t believe the hype. The Family First Act is a step backwards for child welfare finance reform
Along with one from The Intercept_:
While Everybody Slept, Congress Did Something Extraordinary for Vulnerable Children
Both fine sources but here are my thoughts. I agree that it is “Landmark” legislation. But not necessarily for the obvious reasons. You may find more of my thoughts near the end.
The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is a watered-down version the legislation created by Senators Hatch and Wyden known as Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 (FSKCA). Most who were in favor of the FSKCA also favored the FFPSA, including the Senators. a version of the FFPSA passed the House in June of 2016 but failed to pass the Senate. Passed this week tied to the tail of a funding continuing resolution. Reported as weak by many but that may be its strength.
The foundation for this legislation began with a BUZZFEED article in February 2015, Fostering Profits, which featured one of the largest for-profit child placement agencies MENTOR. That article drew the attention of the Senate Finance Committee.
US Senate Committee Probes Nation’s Largest For-Profit Foster Care
This probe along with testimony from former foster kids, families, and others prompted Finance Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch [RUT] and Minority Leader Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] to author the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 (FSKCA). A watered-down version of their bill was introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan [RFL16] thus the reason he is getting credit for their bill.
About the best way to gain understanding of what this legislation is all about is to look back to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance August 4, 2015, hearing
A Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care
On that page you will find a link to what appears to be the official record along with the written statements of both Senators Hatch, Wyden and invited witnesses. You may direct link to the video but skip to 29 mins due to dead air. Please listen with an open mind. We may not agree with the presenter but very often we want the same things only worded differently.
The FSKCA… S.1964 was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] on August 5, 2015. This is the legislation which people keep asking about that is known to have been written by Senators Hatch and Wyden.
On October 21,2015, Rep Lloyd Doggett [DTX35] introduce the House companion H.R.3781 – Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015.
Neither bill showed any movement during the 114th 1st session. The thing about this legislation that always bothered me was that it was introduced in the Senate and I have always been under the understanding that funding legislation Constitutionally must be introduced in the people’s House. Don’t know if that was the holdup or not.
Early in the 114th 2nd session rumors arose that a water down version of the FSKCA was to be introduced as the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. House Ways and Means, Human Services Sub Committee held a very enlightening hearing.
We got our first look at HR5456 when it was introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan [RFL16] on June 13, 2016, and then debated in the Ways and Means mark up hearing on June 15, 2016. Listen carefully to Mr. Doggett’s comments.
Just days later, on June 21, 2016, the legislation went before the full floor where it was passed by unanimous consent.
The Senate version was presented as S.3065 by Sen. Orrin Hatch [RUT] on June 16, 2016; then sent to the Senate Finance Committee where it was met with opposition by three senators.
- Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)
- Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
- John Cornyn (R-TX)
As I understand it, Wyoming had some sort of problem with how some of the funding was calculated because due to their low population they did not qualify for anything. California and Texas had issues over the congregate care restrictions. I heard a rumor that California and Wyoming came around, but Gov. Abbott would not allow Cornyn to make it unanimous consent.
While there was a brief resurrection when the legislation was attached to a major medical research and mental health bill known as the 21st Century Cures Act. But a Baptist group home network in North Carolina convinced Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) into keeping it out of HR34 allowing it to die at the end of the session.
We must praise Mr. Buchanan for his due diligence in refiling HR253 on January 4, 2017. While it appeared to lay there dormant it gained 8 Cosponsors and spawned 4 bills which passed the House on June 21, 2017, as standalone bills.
- H.R.2742 Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act
- H.R.2834 Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act
- H.R.2847 Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act
- H.R.2866 Reducing Unnecessary Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act
Only HR2742 drew a Senate companion bill S.1257.
October 2017, Senator Hatch did a press release relating to the Senate Probe.
Hatch, Wyden Respond to Significant Need to Improve Government Oversight Following Foster Care Investigation
The committee released a 660-page bipartisan report that includes responses from about 31 states to the letter sent to all state Governors. Very valuable information.
In true Hatch/Wyden style, they introduced the Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act of 2017. Read about it in:
Senate Foster Care Bill Would Incentivize Kin, Monitor Private Providers and Child Fatalities
About mid-morning, February 6, 2018, I received an email notice from the “Ways and Means” committee.
Brady, Smith on Policies Included in Continuing Resolution to Strengthen Families and Communities, same day,
Family First Act, Major Foster Care Finance Reform Bill, Included in House’s Initial Spending Deal
So, the table was set for the FFPSA to pass via the text from Mr. Buchanan’s 2016 bill HR5456 having been inserted into HR1892
And on February 9, 2018, the president signed the bill with an effective date of October 1, 2018. Mr. Buchanan’s press release:
President Signs Buchanan Bill to Help Kids
And here is where we find the cause of the confusion over the source text. Mr. Buchanan’s press release states HR253, but the Ways and Means notice states clearly that the bills inserted had already passed the house. If you look at HR253 above and you will find that it never got passed introduction. Therefore, the text had to come from HR5456. For brevity, I wish people would refer to the latter. It may save some Facebook rages.
By far I would have loved seeing much stronger legislation. But in many ways, it may be just enough.
Over the years I’ve been involved in numerous heated debates over how the Federal law applies to the Child Welfare System. Many believe in the “Fed trumps State” philosophy, while I point out that the states must write legislation to apply the new legislation in that state.
In many ways, I see more importance in the fact that the FFPSA passed then in its content. The reason being it can serve as a “Training Run”.
While I may preach that when Federal legislation passes that is when We the People absolutely must get involved. But I am sure that a huge part of you will just wait it out and see what happens.
That is the beauty of the FFPSA it is strong enough to draw the attention of the public but not so strong to do any real damage should it fail.
The importance of We the People becoming involved can not be stressed hard enough over the next few days… weeks I will be talking more on this subject. #FFAOWN