The Division of Family and Children Services is working with Georgia’s child welfare community and partners across the state to prepare for implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
We have submitted our draft narrative Title IV-E Prevention Plan to the federal Children’s Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Once approved, this plan will outline how we’ll use the Family First Act to fund services that allow more children to grow up safely at home.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER OCT. 1
On Oct. 1, 2021, Family First Act limitations on federal reimbursement for foster care maintenance payments for CCIs, or group homes, go into effect.
What does this mean for Georgia?
For Placement: These limitations do not currently impact the ability to place youth in group homes if it is determined to be the most appropriate placement. The Division continues to strive to have a placement continuum where children and youth can be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting that appropriately meets their needs.
For Prevention Services: In the coming months, Georgia will begin the process of planning Prevention Services test sites and moving towards Family First Act implementation.
What are Georgia’s current priorities for Family First Act implementation?
Building the infrastructure necessary for a Prevention Services program. This includes finalizing policies required for Prevention Plan approval; updating SHINES to support case work and data collection; training; and building a robust Continuous Quality Improvement program.
Implementing initial FFT & MST services in select regions. More details will be shared later this fall.
Communicating effectively with all impacted stakeholders as we begin the process of Family First implementation.
These steps bring us closer to the Blueprint for Family First vision of enabling more children to safely grow up at home.
SERVICES INCLUDED IN THE PREVENTION PLAN
Based on the recommendations of the Prevention Services Workgroup, the Division has selected the following services for inclusion in its Title IV-E Prevention Plan:
These services address many of the critical areas of need identified though data, focus groups and the Prevention Services Workgroup and implementing them will enable the Division to better serve children and families in community-based settings.
Family First services will be implemented in phases in order to build provider and agency capacity, learn from continuous quality improvement, and to allow technology infrastructure for business processes and data collection to be built.
The initial phase of services will include implementing FFT and MST in select regions. More specifics about this phase will be announced later this fall.
PLAN DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Workgroups made up of providers, state agency partners, parents and youth who experienced foster care, DFCS staff, members of the judicial communities, researchers, data analysts and others began working in 2019 towards making recommendations on elements of Georgia' Title IV-E Prevention Plan, including:
Practice & Policy Alignment
Data and Continuous Quality Improvement
The workgroups’ recommendations were assembled into a draft plan by DFCS’s Blueprint for Family First team and be reviewed by DFCS leadership before submitting the draft plan to the federal government.
The Family First Act Steering Committee, a cabinet-level forum of DFCS executive leadership and district directors, is established and charged with providing general direction and decision making on all aspects of Georgia’s Family First Act strategy, ensuring alignment with organizational activities, and determining priorities, assignments, and sequencing of readiness tasks. The Steering Committee provides support and oversees progress and outputs of all DFCS Family First Act workgroups to ensure optimal functioning and integration.
The Committee continues to meet through 2021 (and beyond) to support successful implementation of the Family First Act in Georgia.
The Candidacy Workgroup charged with reviewing available data, applicable law and policy to make informed recommendations to the DFCS’ Family First Steering Committee regarding the state’s definition of “candidate for foster care” and the Family First Act target population for purposes of the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act begins meeting.
The Candidacy Workgroup was responsible for reviewing and providing input on DFCS’s current candidacy definition; suggesting refinements if needed to ensure that the definition aligns with DFCS’s strategic direction and allows DFCS to reach children and families in need; elevating suggested candidacy definition and rationale to Steering Committee for review and approval; and gaining an active understanding of the characteristics and service needs of Family First candidates and pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.
The Readiness Workgroup meets multiple times from 2020-2021 to draft a recommendation for practice guidance and training needed to support Family First Act implementation and strengthen the Family Preservation program area.
The workgroup sends a field practice survey to receive feedback from all staff regarding necessary practice supports and improvements and additional training needs. Every workgroup member facilitates two focus groups for their region, one for workers and another for supervisors to provide an opportunity for further discussion. The Workgroup reviews results from the survey and focus groups to identify the common practice gaps and training needs.
Finally, the Workgroup drafts a recommendation for practice guidance and training needed to support Family First Act implementation and strengthen the Family Preservation program area.
The Leadership Advisory Council, a broad stakeholder group comprising representatives from the state’s local Departments of Social Services, state level providers, family and youth representation, and other community stakeholders, holds its first meeting.
The group convenes regularly to obtain status updates and provide critical input on planning and implementation of key strategic priorities underway as part of DFCS’s system transformation, with Family First Act as a central lever for strategic change. The group focuses on areas requiring broad external input, including but not limited to candidacy considerations, preventive evidence-based service array and family support services. The Leadership Advisory Council is charged with making recommendations to the Steering Committee and engaging child welfare system stakeholder groups to guide the planning and implementation efforts necessary for the successful fulfillment of the requirements of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
The Practice & Policy Alignment Workgroup begins meeting to identify necessary changes to the state policy and SHINES database to align with Family First Act requirements and promote successful implementation of the legislation in Georgia. The workgroup consists of state-level and internal DFCS field staff who work within the policy and SHINES divisions.
The Workgroup’s responsibilities include operationalizing candidacy definition in policy and developing associate SHINES requirements; Partner with the Prevention Services Workgroup to develop the business processes for assessment, service selection, and referral; Developing requirements to build a child prevention plan in SHINES, including Family First Act eligibility assessment, service selection and re-assessment of eligibility at 12 months; Defining necessary changes to protocols for sharing information with external partners, as necessary, to support assessment and referral process; and guiding development or revision of policies and procedures to align with Family First Act requirements and promote successful implementation.
The workgroup continues to meet through 2021 (and beyond) to support successful implementation of the Family First Act in Georgia.
November 2020-January 2021
The DFCS Blueprint for Family First team works with Family First Act implementation experts at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to develop a Theory of Change for how Georgia will achieve the vision of Blueprint for Family First — Strong families, safe children. The Family First Act is one of the tools we will use to put this Theory of Change into practice.
Providers from across the state complete the Family First Provider Readiness Assessment. Results from the assessment are matched with information about service needs and used as the basis for discussion about which services to include in the Prevention Plan.
The Prevention Services Workgroup participates in a series of six meetings to inform the Prevention Plan’s development and Georgia’s vision for a statewide expansion and alignment of services that can safely prevent children and youth from entering foster care. Meeting recordings and materials are shared on the Blueprint for Family First website.
Based on a strong understanding of data on children and families within the population Georgia is targeting under the Family First Act, the results of Georgia’s preventive services array survey and input from experts and local and statewide prevention leaders, the group forms recommendations for an aligned Family First Act preventive services array.
The Data and Continuous Quality Improvement Workgroup, charged with designing and implementing CQI systems to monitor and improve Family First Act services, begins ongoing meetings. The Workgroup’s responsibilities include identifying research questions that DFCS and its partners would like to address to inform implementation; identifying program-specific and cross-cutting prevention measures of process, capacity, quality and outcomes that DFCS would like to track to understand preventive services implementation and outcomes; determining data collection methods and tools to obtain fidelity and outcomes data for each Family First EBP; identifying strategies for ensure transmission of CQI data from providers and/or sister agencies to DFCS if needed; defining a Family First Act CQI cycle of improvement, including timeframes, roles and responsibilities for monitoring CQI data and enacting identified improvements; and promoting integration and alignment of Family First Act CQI with broader DFCS CQI strategies.
DFCS leadership holds a Family First Update on Theory of Change and Prevention Plan webinar including a live Q&A session to provide information directly to stakeholders.
DFCS submits Georgia’s draft narrative Title IV-E Prevention Plan to the federal Children’s Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and share the plan on the Blueprint for Family First website.