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July/August 2021Vol. 22, No. 7Five Ways to Serve Youth Through the Family First Prevention Services Act

A recent brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy details five opportunities within the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) of 2018 for states to build a prevention continuum that focuses on healthy adolescent development. The brief also aims to address disparities in diverse populations.

The FFPSA authorized federal funding for certain child welfare prevention services. Most approved FFPSA programs to date have focused on restricting the use of congregate care and placing youth with foster families instead of more restrictive placements. However, services designed to meet the needs of children and youth who are not yet considered candidates for foster care could also be eligible for FFPSA funding, and, according to the brief, there is significant demand for programs that incorporate research on adolescent development and supports for Black, Latinx, Native, and LGBTQ+ youth.

The following recommendations identify ways states can use FFPSA funding to create a continuum of prevention programs that focus on adolescent development and underserved populations:

  1. Use the Youth Thrive framework. This framework helps states make funding decisions by determining which new and existing programs contribute to youth well-being. 
  2. Develop and support programs that prioritize and incorporate youth voice. Research has demonstrated that youth voice can improve outcomes for children. 
  3. Develop and support programs that focus on the quality of relationships between youth and adults. Research shows these "transformational relationships" are a foundation for healthy adolescent development.
  4. Integrate trauma-informed and healing-centered practices. For example, healing-centered engagement is an approach that promotes a holistic view of healing from traumatic experiences. 
  5. Enhance services from an equity perspective to promote antiracist policies. FFPSA provides an opportunity to address the disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system.