Policy & Practice | Spring 2023

Promising Approaches In the five years since Family First was passed, states, territories, and tribes have made incredible strides in reengineering existing service and administrative infrastructures to strengthen the implementation of prevention services. States are using Family First to create a pathway that leads families away from the child welfare system and toward the creation of an array of prevention supports that proactively promote family well-being and stability. The fol lowing three examples represent some promising approaches under Family First.

New York

NewYork’s Family First Prevention Plan is designed to build on the state’s history of investing in prevention, while also continuing to reform the child welfare system to address root causes. New York created two tracks for

families to become candidates for Family First prevention services. The Child Welfare Services Track serves families who have come to the attention of the child welfare system and are considered at risk to have their child(ren) removed. The second track begins to provide support to families before they encounter child welfare. The Healthy Families New York (HFNY) Track considers all families enrolled in the Healthy Families America (HFA) program as categorically eligible for Family First prevention funding. Healthy Families America, 2 the signature home visiting program of Prevent Child Abuse America is an evidence-based, early childhood home visitation program that is considered “well supported” in the Clearinghouse and serves families prenatally and with children up to age five. In the future, New York plans to expand their Family First services to include a Community Prevention Track that will support more families and children who are being served by community-based providers or other state agencies. While providing additional pathways for families to receive support, New York is being intentional about serving families without opening a child welfare case and reducing the reach of the child welfare agency. The Title IV-E agency also plans to invest and leverage resources to provide concrete and economic support such as child care and housing to families, and will explore a Universal Basic Income pilot. By shifting to a community-based, public health approach, New York plans to leverage Family First to invest in communities that are under-resourced and take steps to address historical inequities.

Meg Dygert is the Senior Policy Associate for Child & Family Well-Being at APHSA.


Colorado’s Family First Prevention Plan continues the state’s effort to serve more families before a report is made to child welfare. It builds on an array of existing state prevention efforts, including the Core Services Program, which funds strengths-based resources

Lynn Tiede is the Healthy Families America Public Policy Deputy at Prevent Child Abuse America.

and support to families. To leverage that existing prevention infrastructure, Colorado defined Family First candidacy very broadly. Families can be eligible even if they have not been subject to a child maltreatment report but share characteristics that identify risk, such as those battling substance use disorder, mental illness, or are in need of additional support for their child. This was done with the explicit intent “to proactively strengthen and support families as early as possible, before they are in crisis.” This candidacy definition provides flexibility for Colorado’s diverse county-administered system while also supporting further expansion and access to prevention services. Similar to New York, Colorado explicitly acknowledges the risk of further stigmatizing and unintentionally increasing child welfare involvement by providing Family First prevention support to more families. As they expand Family First–eligible services, the state is seeking to do so without opening a child welfare case. They are also monitoring data statewide for disproportionality and continuing to engage communities and tribes throughout implementation.

Kelly Crane is the State Policy Specialist at Prevent Child Abuse America.


Policy & Practice Spring 2023

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