The Family First Act Is Law, Okay What Next? #FFAOWN


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.

Intro

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.

History

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.

The Intercept_ responded with an article:
Children Are Dying at Alarming Rates in Foster Care, and Nobody Is

So did the Chronicle for Social Change:
Senate Report Slams Public Management of Private Foster Care

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.

My Thoughts

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

Thank you

About Jim Black

Jim Black is the founder of Angel Eyes over Texas (AEovrT). Jim is a former Manufacturing Engineer turned CPS Watchdog. Jim spent more than 32 years studying manufacturing companies, their procedures and the proper application of their resources with heavy emphasis on Quality Control, Automated Systems and Resource Management. Now those same skills are applied toward analyzing Texas DFPS and it's functions; breaking down the mechanics of how the agency fails to follow the policies, statutes and rules set forth by the State of Texas. Jim tracks all changes to the Texas CPS Handbook on www.aeovrt.org. Jim often consults with CPS defense attorneys on handbook research.
This entry was posted in 115th (2017-2018), Title IV-E Funding, Ways and Means and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Family First Act Is Law, Okay What Next? #FFAOWN

  1. Stacy Youst says:

    “While I may preach that when Federal legislation passes that is when We the People absolutely must get involved.” Thank you very much for your detailed overview of events Jim Black. What are the most effective ways for us ‘watchers’ to get involved? Thank you, Stacy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheryl N says:

    Jim, Thank you for giving a solid review about the Family First bill that passed last week. It was a bit overwhelming for many of us because of conflicting opinions about what it, the bill, means. I will be going back over your statement and digging into the information you so generously provided. Again, thank you! Cheryl Nagel

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christine Gallo says:

    My 5 year old innocent beautiful, full of life, full of Godly love and family love, granddaughter, was kidnapped from her home from Monroe County Pa Children and youth. They knocked on my door in Tobyhanna Pa at 10:00 pm at night with no warrant and no police saying they need to take my granddaughter into custody due to imminent danger. Believing authority saying we would get her back tomorrow, if our story was honest and true, my 23 yr old, single mother, daughter, complied with the authority of Monroe County Children and youth, not knowing any better. When we went to the Monroe County courthouse to get her back, MCCY told the judge that a MCCY case worker got a call of neglect from a past, abusive,boyfriend of my daughter. They went to my house while I was at work and took urine from my daughter. The caseworker took the urine home for 7 days. She said it was in her refrigerator for the 7 days, where she lives with her paramour. When she finally brought it to the lab, ??????, it came up positive for opiates. It is 2/16/2018 and my granddaughter is still not home and has been physically abused by foster parents, with bruises, and MCCY turning a blind eye for what I believe is pure greed. There are many stories of corruption, and colution between Monroe County Children and youth, the Monroe County courthouse, and police departments. Children of single mothers are a target, black or white, and treated as a product which yields money for all county employees involved. The more product, the more money. They should be federally audited and held accountable. Because of the production line mentality of these, here today, gone tomorrow so called child protectors, the children who are supposed to grow up believing authority, and human rights matter in these United States, are turned into the unloved, untrusting Jeffrey Dahmers of the future. They ruin lives and family love and bonds. They seek and destroy like the devil. Every, every, former child, raised under MCCY authority, are all, ALL messed up junkies that couldn’t help this country provale if they wanted to. That is my basic, non detailed personal experience with MCCY. I have documentation of proof, which means nothing in this country without the money for a non corrupt lawyer that truly cares about children. May God bless us all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Family First Prevention Services Act: Sweeping Reform to Child Welfare Funding Enacted | A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger (C2A)

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