Implications of COVID-19 on the Research and Evaluation Provisions of the Family First Act.
Jordan, Elizabeth. McKlindon, Amy.
Published: September 2020
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Bethesda, MD 20814
This brief explains the federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 was designed to help children at risk of entering foster care remain safely with their families, and to help children already in foster care live with families rather than in group homes or congregate care settings. It achieves this goal is through expanding Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to include evidence-based mental health, substance abuse, and in-home parenting programs that prevent entry to foster care. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact families and the child welfare system, this brief describes anticipated implementation challenges within the evidence and evaluation requirements of the Family First Act, including implications for programs with an existing evidence base and programs currently undergoing or planning for evaluation. It begins with background information on the prevention provisions of the Family First Act and then reports that as of August 2020, 38 programs have been reviewed by the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse. Of those, 17 did not currently meet criteria for having evidence of effectiveness, and the remaining 21 were reviewed and received ratings of promising (8 programs), supported (4 programs), or well-supported (9 programs). It notes that as States continue to respond to COVID-19, implementers of programs currently meeting evidence requirements may be making changes in service delivery and content, changes that may interfere with fidelity, and formal program adaptations. Implications for programs planning or currently undergoing evaluation are discussed and recommendations are made for evaluators, program leaders, and policymakers. Recommendations include: monitor for program and federal guidance, invest in documenting what is happening now, crucially examine and build the evidence for programs that are effective for children and families of color, collaborate across agencies, and closely partner with evaluators. Links are provided to additional resources. (Author abstract modified)
COVID-19; FAMILY FIRST PREVENTION SERVICES ACT; foster care; foster children; prevention; TITLE IV E; EVIDENCE BASED PRACTICE; RACIAL DISPROPORTIONALITY