SHERIDAN — Child Protective Services throughout the state of Wyoming will now receive training regarding the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was signed into law Feb. 9, 2018, and is now being implemented in Wyoming’s Department of Family Services systems.
“I think it’s one of the most significant changes that child welfare has had in awhile,” said Clint Haynes, Wyoming DFS ombudsman and public information officer.
The act came about from bipartisan budget collaboration on the federal level to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system, according to information from the law.
State programs will be reimbursed with federal funds for youth and adults needing certain types of care. Those eligible for funding and support programming include children who are at risk for foster care but can remain at home with an identified prevention plan in place, children in foster care who are pregnant or parenting, and parents of kin caregivers where services are needed to prevent the child’s entry into care.
Mental health, substance abuse prevention and substance abuse treatment services are all available for federal reimbursement, as are in-home parent skill-based programs.
Child Protective Services workers, through the Wyoming DFS, help coordinate setting up programs and reimbursement for parents and children through the system, and organizations like Compass Center for Families in Sheridan conduct the programming.
After prevention services funding was cut in the state legislative budget session two years ago, Compass Executive Director Susan Carr expressed her appreciation for the act.
“We knew this was coming down the pipeline, so we started creating programs that would address these issues,” Carr said. “We provide parent education; we provide in-home parent education and support for families that are going through difficult times with their children.”
The programs are evidence-based programs geared toward appropriate parenting and teaching stages of child development.
Carr said another important aspect of the new legislation is different community agencies coming together and collaborating on treatments and services from a trauma-informed standpoint.
“This law requires us to become trauma-informed,” Carr said. “We like to use trauma-responsive. We stop asking the question, ‘What did you do?’ to ‘What happened to you?’ ‘What trauma did you experience as a child that has led to us being here?’ and understanding that families don’t just wake up one day and decide to beat their kids.
“Families have a long history of childhood trauma themselves that could be generational that would really cause them to act in inappropriate fashions or in a maladaptive response,” Carr added.
Written prevention plans lasting up to 12 months for children, parents or families are identified and set up by CPS employees. Fifty percent of the amount spent for prevention services and programs will be available to states beginning Oct. 1 and will span through Oct. 1, 2026. Indian tribes and tribal organizations are also eligible to receive the benefits.
In addition to reimbursements for services and programs for families, the act also provides grants for states to develop electronic systems for interstate case processing.
Haynes said Wyoming’s DFS is looking to update the department’s website, making it more user friendly.
“We actually are in the process of redoing our site,” Haynes said. “In the process of that redo, we certainly want to be cognizant that the public is our customer and trying to make it as user-friendly to get information that’s pertinent to people as easy as they can.”
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon Feb. 25, will become effective July 1, 2019, and CPS workers will begin receiving the Family First Prevention Services Act training.