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Federal Agency Approves OCFS Family First Prevention Services Act Plan

The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has approved the OCFS State Title IV-E Plan amendment, which outlines the transformational steps New York State is taking to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). The state plan’s success demonstrates the exceptional work being done by the state, local departments of social services, and providers, to keep children with kin and in family-based settings, under this far-reaching federal law. Approval makes federal reimbursement (under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act) available for eligible children entering foster care are placed in the least restrictive environment appropriate for their needs.

NYS OCFS Announces Successful Implementation of Federal Family First Prevention Services Act to Transform the New York State Foster Care System

New York State Has Decreased the Number of Children in Foster Care by 55% in Last 20 Years

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today announced that New York State has successfully implemented provisions of a sweeping federal law called the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) that will significantly transform the foster care system by supporting interventions that promote foster placement with family or close friends (kin) rather than in group homes or institutions. In addition, the law overhauls the use of federal child welfare funds to allow for investment in more preventative, evidence-based programs such as mental health, substance abuse and parenting programs. OCFS spearheaded the implementation in partnership with a statewide advisory group of advocates, providers, families and local departments of social services.

Family First Resources

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) went live in New York State on September 29, 2021. This page includes resources for the implementation of FFPSA.

Family First Regulations

The Family First Regulations were filed with the Department of State on August 24, 2021, and became effective immediately upon filing. They appeared in the State Register on September 8, 2021, and are now available on the Office of Children and Family Services Emergency Regulations page in the section noted as Notice of Emergency Adoption and Proposed Rule Making that amends Parts 427, 428, 441, 442, 447, 448, 449, and 628 of Title 18. They are also located in the NYS Register under Office of Children and Family Services titled Adopt Provisions and Standards to Operationalize Compliance with the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act.

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) Overview

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), was enacted as part of the federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123) on February 9, 2018. FFPSA reforms federal financing to prioritize family based foster care over residential care by limiting federal reimbursement for certain residential placements. The law permits states to use title IV-E funds for evidence based prevention services for families at risk of entering the child welfare system. In addition, FFPSA provides new federal funding opportunities for kin navigator programs.

Implementing Family First Prevention Services Act

Family First Resources for LDSSs/VAs

Moving toward implementation of the FFPSA requires OCFS, Districts and Voluntary Agencies to review and refine removal and placement protocols, increase recruitment and retention of kin and non-kin foster parents, conduct a critical assessment and redesign of congregate care system, explore QRTP accreditation and the assessment process, and enhance prevention services array.

The FFPSA workbook is a guide to prepare for FFPSA implementation by gathering and assessing relevant data, identifying bright spots and challenges, and aligning practices, procedures, and policies within the provisions of the law. Links to data and other information are provided throughout the document and there is a resource section at the end.

Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) Resources

Federal Approval of NYS Qualified Individual (QI) Waiver

On September 30, 2021, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) approved NYS’s waiver request to authorize local departments of social services (LDSSs) to contract for licensed clinicians to perform the QI’s functions, including conducting objective assessments within 30 days of a youth being placed in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP). This approval comes as Family First is officially live in NYS and supports efforts by OCFS and LDSSs to determine the most effective and appropriate level of care for each child in the least restrictive environment.

For more information, see:

List of approved Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) as of November 1, 2021
Qualified Individual (QI) Resources

Letters of Interest were received from licensed clinicians who responded to a request from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to carry out the function as a Qualified Individual (QI) for the purpose of conducting assessments of youth in foster care in accordance with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) and corresponding New York State standards.

Please note, the Qualified Individual Lists are posted on the intranet on the Family First Website.

QI Policies
CANS-NY

The CANS-NY serves as a guide in decision making for Health Homes Serving Children, as well as to guide service planning specifically for children and adolescents under the age of 21 with behavioral needs, medical needs, developmental disabilities, and juvenile justice involvement. The purpose of the CANS-NY is to accurately represent the shared vision of the child serving system—child and families. As such, completion of the CANS-NY is accomplished in order to allow for the effective communication of this shared vision for use at all levels of the system. Since its primary purpose is communication, the CANS-NY is designed based on communication theory rather than the psychometric theories that have influenced most measurement development.

Family First Highlights

Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) and QRTP Exceptions in New York State

The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to detail and describe New York State’s (NYS) approach to certifying congregate care programs as Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) in order to allow children residing in the programs to remain eligible under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (Title IV-E). Local Departments of Social Services (LDSSs) will not be able to claim for continued (more than 14 days) Title IV-E reimbursement as of September 29, 2021, for children and youth in foster care placed in congregate care settings on or after this date, unless such setting is a QRTP or a QRTP Exception. This ADM also provides preliminary information and expectations regarding the programs that will qualify as QRTP Exceptions in NYS.

Regulatory Changes and Standards of Care for Youth in Congregate Care Settings

The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to provide guidance on recent regulatory changes in conjunction with the creation of policy-based standards of care that will continue to promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of all youth placed in all congregate care settings that are licensed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), including those operated by voluntary foster care agencies and local departments of social services (LDSS).

To accompany the regulatory changes described herein, specifically the development of mandated policies, OCFS is providing sample policies that comport with the regulations. OCFS has developed these sample policies to aid with regulatory changes and the documenting of required standards of care. These sample policies were drafted, specifically to provide agencies with language to either adopt or use to guide new or revised agency policies. Attached are samples of the five policies mandated by the adopted regulations and this ADM, they include:

  • Behavior Management and Use of Physical Interventions
  • Behavioral Health Services
  • Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)
  • Youth Personal Belongings
  • LGBTQ

This ADM is also to inform congregate care programs of future incident reporting requirements. OCFS will be mandating that all agencies operating a congregate care setting utilize the OCFS Voluntary Agency Incident Reporting System (VAIRS) beginning in the first quarter of 2022. OCFS will provide a presentation and training, as well as a guidebook in advance of this date. VAIRS is a procedural incident reporting system that is currently used for all voluntary agencies operating Raise the Age programs. The centralized reporting of incidents is part of a broad initiative to develop a consistent framework from which all congregate care programs can operate and provide increasingly supportive and effective services to youth.

Kin-First Firewall FAQ

On October 14, 2020, OCFS published the 20-OCFS-ADM-18 titled “Kin-First Firewall Practice”. The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to inform local departments of social services (LDSSs) and voluntary agencies (VAs) of the requirement to establish a kin-first firewall practice to increase safe and appropriate kinship placements for children. Kin-first firewalls are intended to make kinship placements the presumptive placement for children, thereby expanding family-based care and helping LDSSs and VAs prepare for Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) implementation.

A Kin-First Firewall FAQ is attached to the ADM. This FAQ was updated on March 1, 2021 to include questions from the field related to implementation of a Kin-First Firewall.

Blind Removal Process and Kin-First Firewall Practice

A memorandum from OCFS regarding the release of policies on the Blind Removal Process and Kin-First Firewall: Blind Removal/Kin-First Memo in Word | Blind Removal/Kin-First Memo in PDF

“The time is now to move from conversation to action! The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is committed to a more just and equitable child welfare system and is currently examining existing policies and practices with a race equity lens. Over the past several months, we have been working on two new policies that will improve practice at key decision-making points in the child welfare continuum – investigations and placements. These policies – the Blind Removal Process and Kin-First Firewall – align with the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) of keeping children safely at home, and when that is not possible, placing children with relatives.”

Keeping Kids Out of Foster Care with a Kin-First Firewall

To further promote kinship foster care, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced in his 2020 State of the State Address that New York State will mandate that each local social services district establish a Kin-First Firewall policy – a second look at every child removed to ensure that all steps are taken to make the first placement a kinship placement where appropriate. The implementation of a Kin-First Firewall policy supports children in foster care being placed with kin first.

FY 2021 Executive Budget Supports Family First Readiness

Legislation submitted as part of Governor Cuomo’s FY 2021 Executive Budget will support compliance with the Family First Prevention Services Act and help keep children safely with their families or in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs when foster care is needed.

Family First Transition Fund Year 2. The 2021 Executive Budget maintains a $3 million state-supporting Family First Transition Fund to help local social service districts support, recruit, and retain current and prospective foster families, including kinship caregivers.

Budget Authority. In addition to the state-supported Family First Transition Fund, the budget includes $75 million in appropriations for the receipt of Federal funding to assist with FFPSA implementation. On December 30, 2019, $500 million in one-time federal funding was made available for states to support the implementation of FFPSA. It is estimated that $20.4 million will be allocated to NYS.

Expand Eligibility for the Community Optional Preventive Services Program. This program provides funding to certain counties and the City of New York to serve children or youth who are not at imminent risk of foster care, but who have been identified as being at general risk of entering the foster care system. State law limits eligibility to programs that were designed and approved more than a decade ago, limiting the ability to react to changing needs or best practices. The Executive Budget expands eligibility for additional counties and programs for at-risk youth.

About the Family First Transition Fund

On April 12, 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that established the Family First Transition Fund providing $3 million in state funding to help LDSSs support, recruit and retain current and prospective foster families, including kinship caregivers (Chapter 53 of the Laws of 2019). Kinship caregivers include both approved foster homes and certified foster homes where the foster parent is a relative, or is a non-relative with a positive relationship to the child or child’s family (i.e., godparent, neighbor, family friend). The intent of this fund is to produce sustained systemic improvements that encourage the least restrictive setting for children in foster care.

Update: The service expenditure period for the New York State Family First Transition Fund Year 1 was extended to March 31, 2022. Claims for reimbursement must be made by June 30, 2022.

Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse

The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse was established by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to systematically review research on programs and services intended to provide enhanced support to children and families and prevent foster care placements. The Clearinghouse, developed in accordance with the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, rates programs and services as promising, supported, and well-supported practices. These practices include mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services and in-home parent skill-based programs, as well as kinship navigator services.

In December 2018 the Children’s Bureau (CB) released Program Instruction ACYF-CB-PI-18-09. This program issuance provides instructions on the requirements state Title IV-E agencies must meet when electing the Title IV-E prevention program. The Program Instruction included the first list of twelve (12) services and programs selected for review by the Clearinghouse. Currently there are no programs and/or services in the Clearinghouse. For more information on the Clearinghouse see the link below.

NYS Delay of Specific Provisions

The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has reviewed the various provisions of FFPSA and identified needed changes to New York State (NYS) statute. This analysis is preliminary and subject to change as OCFS is awaiting additional guidance and clarification from the federal government. In addition, OCFS has engaged partners throughout the state, including LDSSs, VAs, advocacy groups, and other state agencies, to implement a comprehensive plan that adheres to the time frames identified by the FFPSA.

Given the need for additional guidance and clarification from the federal government, NYS submitted a request to delay the following provisions of FFPSA:

On February 1, 2019, OCFS was informed that the request to delay the above provisions was granted by the federal government. The delayed effective date for these provisions is September 29, 2021. The delay for these provisions provides OCFS and our partners the time necessary to appropriately plan and respond to the federal provisions.

Due to the need for potential changes to state law, NYS submitted Attachment B to ACYF-CB-PI-18-07 on August 8, 2018 requesting a legislative delay to implement the following provisions of law:

On February 1, 2019, this request was approved by the federal government. The delayed effective date for these provisions is April 1, 2020.

First in the Nation: Open-ended State Investment in Preventive Services

In June 2002, NYS passed landmark legislation that reformed state funding for child welfare services which consisted of

With Child Welfare Financing Reform (CWF Reform) NYS became the first state in the nation to provide open-ended state reimbursement for Child Preventive services. The premise underlying CWF Reform was that it was important to provide a reliable, uncapped source of funding for child welfare services and would encourage localities to invest in services that promote family stability and permanency for children in safe home-based settings. While foster care is an absolute necessary component of all child welfare systems, it is critical that there be a finance structure that encourages the provision of other services that may alleviate the need for foster care or reduce the time that foster care in necessary.

CWF Reform created a viable financial incentive for localities to provide non-foster care services when children do not need to be separated from their families in order to keep them safe from abuse, neglect or behaviors that endanger themselves or others.

NYS’s emphasis on preventive services led to a significant decline in NYS’s foster care caseload from 37,000 children in 2002 to 16,000 in 2018.

NYS Family First Support

Upcoming Activities

Family First Readiness Webinar Series is designed to inform and update partners regarding the various requirements in the Family First Prevention Services Act.

Family First Guidance

New York State Family First Guidance

Requirements to Operate an EMPOWER Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) Exception

The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to advise local departments of social services (LDSSs) and voluntary authorized agencies (VAs) – particularly those operating programs serving children and youth who are found to be, or are at risk of becoming, sex trafficking victims or survivors – of new requirements pertaining to programs designed to meet the needs of this population. These new requirements are based on the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which was enacted on February 9, 2018, and becomes effective in New York State (NYS) on September 29, 2021.

Prenatal, Postpartum, Parenting Programs: Qualified Residential Treatment Programs Exception in New York State

This Administrative Directive (ADM) details and describes to local departments of social services (LDSSs) and voluntary authorized agencies (VAs) New York State's (NYS) approach to certifying congregate care programs as prenatal, postpartum, parenting (PPP) Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTP) Exceptions. It outlines the framework of a PPP program and details the requirements and process to apply for PPP program certification.

Role and Responsibility of the Qualified Individual in New York State

This Administrative Directive (ADM) details and describes the role and responsibility of the Qualified Individual (QI) in New York State (NYS), provides a format for a Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) to attest to QI qualifications if needed and includes a QI model contract template for the purchase of QI services.

Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) and QRTP Exceptions in New York State

The purpose of this Administrative Directive (ADM) is to detail and describe New York State’s (NYS) approach to certifying congregate care programs as Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) in order to allow children residing in the programs to remain eligible under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (Title IV-E). Local Departments of Social Services (LDSSs) will not be able to claim for continued (more than 14 days) Title IV-E reimbursement as of September 29, 2021, for children and youth in foster care placed in congregate care settings on or after this date, unless such setting is a QRTP or a QRTP Exception. This ADM also provides preliminary information and expectations regarding the programs that will qualify as QRTP Exceptions in NYS.

Blind Removal Process and Kin-First Firewall Practice
  • 20-OCFS-ADM-18 - Kin-First Firewall Practice
    This ADM requires that local departments of social services establish a business process, known as a kin-first firewall, to verify that all appropriate efforts and solutions to kinship placement are explored before a child is placed in non-kinship foster care. A kin-first firewall practice is a strategy that can successfully result in increased kin placements by establishing a “second-look” to review the necessity of non-kinship placements. Such a practice is a proven, effective strategy to increase kinship care. Establishing a kin-first firewall policy promotes a kin-first culture that recognizes that, when safe and appropriate, children do best when placed with kin.
  • 20-OCFS-ADM-19 – Blind Removal Process
    The Blind Removal Process was implemented in order to advance and affirm practices of equity and inclusion by eliminating bias in decision-making during the child protective services (CPS) removal process. The goal is to decrease the overall number of children being removed from their homes and build a more equitable system of care. This strategy is a way to reduce overrepresentation of minority children in the foster care system and provide equal treatment to all families who experience the child welfare system, regardless of race and ethnicity.
Expansion of Background Checks for Congregate Care Staff Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)
  • 19-OCFS-ADM-21, Expansion of Background Checks for Congregate Care Staff Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)
    • OCFS-5107, FFPSA of 2018 Out of State Child Abuse Register Check Letter
    • OCFS-5108, Family First Prevention Services Act Out of State Child Abuse Register Check
Required Forms for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Placement Referrals
  • 19-OCFS-ADM-08, Required Forms for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Placement Referrals
    • OCFS-5050, Checklist for Caseworkers for ICPC Home Study Requests
    • OCFS-5050G, Residential Placement Checklist for Caseworkers - Regulation 4
    • OCFS-5050A, Cover Sheet
    • OCFS-5050B, Certification of Title IV-E Eligibility for Interstate Placements of New York Children
    • OCFS-5050C, Financial-Medical Plan
    • OCFS-5050D, Detailed Child Summary
    • OCFS-5050E, Signed Statement of Sending Agency Case Manager
    • OCFS-5050F, Expedited Placement Decision Home Study Request Form - Regulation 7- Combined Form
FFPSA Model Licensing Standards and Updated Forms for the Certification or Approval of Foster/Adoptive Homes
  • 19-OCFS-ADM-07, FFPSA Model Licensing Standards and Updated Forms for the Certification or Approval of Foster/Adoptive Homes
Family First Transition Fund
Overview of Family First Prevention Services Act
Requirements for Use of the NEICE
Preparing Youth Aging Out of Foster Care for Adulthood
  • 18-OCFS-ADM-16, Providing Foster Care Placement Verification to Youth 18 Years of Age or Older Exiting Foster Care
    • OCFS-5184, Foster Care Placement Verification Form

Federal Family First Guidance

ACYF CB-IM-20-01

New Legislation - Public Law (P.L.) 116-94 Family First Transition Act (January 22, 2020)

forms state and tribal title IV-E agencies of the enactment of the Family First Transition Act and provides basic information on the new law.

ACYF-CB-PI-19-06

Transitional Payments for Title IV-E Prevention and Family Services and Programs

To instruct states on the procedures for transitional payments for title IV-E prevention services and programs.

ACYF CB-IM-19-01

National Model Foster Family Home Licensing Standards (February 4, 2019)

Provides the National Model Foster Family Home Licensing Standards to state and tribal agencies administering or supervising the administration of title IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act).

ACYF CB-PI-19-01

Federal Fiscal Year 2019 Title IV-B, subpart 2 Funding Available for Developing, Enhancing, or Evaluating Kinship Navigator Programs (January 8, 2019)

Provides guidance to state, territorial and tribal title IV-E agencies on the actions required to apply for title IV-B, subpart 2 funding to support the development, enhancement or evaluation of kinship navigator programs. These are federal fiscal year (FY) 2019 funds, provided as part of P.L.115-245, the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of 2019, enacted September 28, 2018.

ACYF CB-PI-18-12

Approval of a revised form for reporting financial data on the title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, guardianship assistance, kinship navigator and prevention services programs (November 30, 2018)

Provides state, territorial, and tribal title IV-E agencies with the revised form and instructions approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for reporting quarterly financial information on the title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, guardianship assistance, kinship navigator and prevention services programs. It also provides continuing guidance for the submission of the Annual Adoption Savings Calculation and Accounting Report.

ACYF CB-PI-18-11

Requirements for Participating in the Title IV-E kinship navigator program (November 30, 2018)

Provides instruction for title IV-E agencies on the requirements for participating in the title IV-E kinship navigator program.

ACYF CB-PI-18-09

State Requirements for Electing Title IV-E Prevention and Family Services and Programs (November 30, 2018)

Provides instructions on the requirements state title IV-E agencies must meet when electing the title IV-E prevention program.

ACYF CB-PI-18-07

Public Law 115-123, the Family First Prevention Services Act (July 9, 2019)

Provides instruction for 1) changes to the title IV-E plan requirements as a result of the Family First Prevention Services Act that are effective as of January 1, 2018, and later; and 2) delayed effective dates for title IV-B/E plan requirements.

ACYF CB PI-18-06

Additional information and instructions for the Annual Progress and Services Report (May 31, 2018)

Provides guidance to states, territories, and insular areas administering titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and to Indian tribes, Indian tribal organizations, or Indian tribal consortia administering titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act of changes in law and funding affecting the information that must be submitted with the Annual Progress and Services Report due June 30, 2018.

ACYF CB IM-18-02

Public Law 115-123, the Family First Prevention Services Act within Division E, Title VII of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Informs states and tribes of the enactment of FFPSA and provides basic information on the new law. (April 12, 2018).

Common Questions and Answers

Family First Prevention Services Act Webinar Q and A

Additional Resources

Contact Information

Email: FamilyFirstNY@ocfs.ny.gov