The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law on March 11, 2021. Properly utilized and implemented, these funds have the potential to substantially support and transform child welfare services to children and families, assist with the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), and stabilize your critical child welfare workforce.
Under ARPA, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) was established to provide substantial funds to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final rule, which implements the statutory provisions of the SLFRF and provides guidance on eligible and ineligible uses of funds, becomes effective April 1, 2022. The SLFRF program provides resources to state, local, and tribal governments to fight the pandemic, support economic recovery, prevent cuts to public services, and stimulate investments for long-term growth. SLFRF funds may only be used for costs incurred within a specific period—beginning March 3, 2021, with all funds obligated by December 31, 2024, and all funds spent by December 31, 2026.
Public Consulting Group (PCG) recommends jurisdictions make a concerted effort to educate executive branch officials on the eligible uses for child welfare agencies with specific emphasis on the following:
1. Child Welfare Services
The final rule clarified some of the eligible uses of SLFRF funds for child welfare services, which is included in the enumerated uses under Promoting Healthy and Childhood Environments. The Department of the Treasury cited the pandemic’s impact on the child welfare and foster care system and specifically clarified this guidance in the final rule to state, “services to foster youth, including those aging out of the system, and child welfare-involved families may encompass a wide array of financial, educational, child development, or health supports, or other supports necessary, including supports for kinship care.”
Since most jurisdictions receiving SLFRF funds can document the income of families receiving child welfare services through Title IV-E eligibility determinations or families eligible for Medicaid or other federal means tested benefits, these families would be considered eligible impacted households and therefore be eligible for child welfare services funded by SLFRF. These federal funds can be used for critical services to children and families involved in the system and support youth aging out of care.
State and local jurisdictions have enormous possibilities to provide supports to children and families involved in the child welfare system. Below are just a few of the many potential programs and services that could be expanded or implemented under SLFRF.
- Concrete supports
- Transportation vouchers
- Housing and rental assistance
- Financial literacy curriculum development and training
- Education and training vouchers
- Educational supplies
- Education liaisons and partnerships with school districts
- Life skills curriculum development and training
- Workforce readiness and employment preparation training
Child Development / Health Supports
- Intensive in-home or prevention services
- Behavioral health counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
- Crisis stabilization services
- School-based therapy
- Clinical health partnerships
- Community health and wellness initiatives
- Parent education
- Kinship navigator program development
- Kinship stipends
- Training and professional development
2. Child Welfare Workforce Stabilization
Child welfare staffing issues are in a crisis in many jurisdictions across the nation. This is particularly true with child protection caseworkers, but in other areas as well—home-based counselors, group home and residential facilities, foster care homes, and community-based services. With over 400,000 children in foster care, having an educated, well-trained, experienced, passionate, and empathetic staff is an essential part of the child welfare system. Their employment stability is the key element to providing safety and permanency for children and support for families. They are the first responders to children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.
SLFRF provides a significant opportunity to address child welfare staffing at this critical time—coming out of the pandemic and the resulting employment shifts. SLFRF provides state and local jurisdictions with the opportunity for pay supplements such as bonuses, hazardous pay, or supplemental pay. Additionally, it provides the opportunity for caseload/workload studies, salary comparisons with other first responders, and gradient pay initiatives recognizing the value of training and experience, and reinforcement of caseworkers and others working with abused and neglected children as a profession.
Click to read our article “Stabilizing Child Welfare Workforce through ARPA”
3. Family First Implementation Support
Shortly before the devastating effects of the pandemic, the FFPSA was enacted. States concentrated heavily on how to implement this new federal program to fund evidence-based practices that prevent placement into foster care. Specifically, FFPSA allows for the availability of federal funding through Title IV-E for prevention services that are rated as promising, supported, or well-supported and approved on the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse; this is provided under a trauma-informed framework, included in the state’s approved five-year Prevention Plan, for a child who has been identified is a “candidate for foster care” in a prevention plan.
SLFRF funds are available to support long-term growth and opportunity like those made available through FFPSA. However, SLFRF is non-recurring and should be applied primarily to non-recurring expenditures. SLFRF provides an avenue to cover many of the initial costs associated with FFPSA prevention services implementation, such as independent systematic reviews, services to sex trafficking victims, funding of home visiting programs, outcome evaluations, substance use treatment and prevention, and supports to kin caregivers.
Click to read our article “Leveraging ARPA to Support FFPSA Implementation”
PCG’s team of consultants and subject matter experts can help your agency develop a bold plan to utilize this substantial federal funding stream to transform child welfare services and supports to create a lasting and sustainable impact on children and families.
More detailed information on the SLFRF final rule, can be found here at the U.S. Treasury ARPA website.
Are you interested in learning more about how PCG can help your agency transform child welfare services and supports through the American Rescue Plan Act?