FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

funding under Family First, it’s considered sufficiently “evidence-based.” 30 The standards for this are extremely strict. That, in itself, illustrates the hypocrisy of the family policing system. Foster care is not evidence-based—on the contrary, the evidence is that it’s harmful. 31 Residential treatment? Same thing. 32 What about that most sacred cow in child welfare, Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)? A review of every study the researchers could find turned up zero evidence that would make CASA evidence based—indeed there is considerable evidence that it does harm. 33 But we keep throwing money at it. Only when the topic is keeping children out of foster care, do we demand that proponents dot every ‘I' and cross every “T’ in multiple studies to prove a given program’s worth beyond the shadow of a doubt. The bottom line for Family First is this: very few programs will be allowed to address very few problems. That’s why, in 2016, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that an average of $130 million per year in IV-E funds would wind up going to prevention thanks to Family First[34]—that’s the $130 million mentioned above. That will raise the prevention total to all of $830 million—still dwarfed by the $9.6 billion spent on foster care and adoption. Or, to put it another way, the $130 million in new prevention funding equals less than two percent of what’s lavished on foster care and adoption. Waivers Were Better Family First did damage in still another way. It replaced a better option: waivers. Beginning in 2006 and expanding considerably by 2012, states were allowed to apply for IV-E waivers. If a state or locality received a waiver, it would take all or part of its IV-E entitlement as a flat grant. The amount was based on a projection of what the state was likely to receive under the entitlement, with an adjustment for inflation. States or localities would be free to spend the money on foster care but also on

better options. States that reduced foster care could keep the savings as long as the money was plowed back into child welfare. But if they took too many children, they had to pay for those additional placements themselves. Unfortunately, few places sought big waivers to cover all of their IV-E funding. Most opted for small-scale projects. (It didn’t help that the federal official who issued “guidelines” for the waivers took an approach that undermined their purpose.) 35 But Florida went big. During the first years of the waiver, when leadership was committed to safely reducing foster care, independent evaluations found that the waiver did exactly that. 36 And, much as in Illinois, when subsequent leaders succumbed to a media-fueled foster-care panic, 37 the increase in entries was not nearly as great as it was ______________ 30 For a detailed discussion of Homebuilders, see Wexler, Richard. “Inclusion of Homebuilders Model Makes Family First Act a Much More Useful Law.” Youth Today , May 26, 2020. homebuilders-makes-family-first-act-a-much-more- useful-law/ 31 For a summary of some of that evidence, see “NCCPR Issue Paper #1. Foster Care vs. Family Preservation: The Track Record for Safety and Well-being.” Updated Feb. 23, 2022. foster-care-vs-family-preservation-the-track-record- for-safety-and-well-being/ 32 For a summary of some of the evidence, see, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. Residential Treatment: What the Research Tells Us . Updated April 18, 2011. 33 For a summary of some of the evidence, see: Wexler, Richard. “The Case Against CASA.” Presentation to the Kempe Center International Virtual Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare, Oct. 6, 2021. https:// conference-case.html 34 Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate: HR 5456 Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016, June 21, 2016 . congress-2015-2016/costestimate/hr5456.pdf 35 Wexler, Richard. “Foster care in America: Rutledge Q. Hutson is gloating - and that’s never good news for children.” NCCPR Child Welfare Blog June 18, 2012 . america-rutledge-q.html 36 Armstrong, M.I., et. al. Florida’s IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project: Evaluation Summary Brief . Department of Child & Family Studies Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences, May 30, 2012. https://bit. ly/3jClvWW 37 For a full discussion of this panic, see NCCPR’s Florida Blog: response-to-innocents-lost.html

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