Arkansas has become the third state to win federal approval of its Family First Prevention Plan, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced today. The plan, which is called Family First Fits Us, outlines how the state Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will implement the new federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
The Children’s Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approved the plan.
Governor Hutchinson praised the work of DCFS Director Mischa Martin and her staff.
“Four years ago, the Paul Vincent report identified a number of areas in the Arkansas foster-care system that needed improvement,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This plan highlights the enormous progress DCFS has made in the care of our foster children and in reuniting families.”
The federal approval affirms the progress that DCFS has made, DHS Secretary Cindy Gillespie said.
“This is a big step in the right direction for children and families in Arkansas. This plan is grounded in a commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to strengthen families,” Secretary Gillespie said. “The plan represents a profound re-thinking of the way child welfare agencies serve children and families.”
The Family First Prevention Plan will help DCFS support communities and families, help prevent child abuse and neglect, and keep children from entering into foster care by raising awareness about and access to community-based services such as counseling and parenting support, and connections to financial, educational, and employment support.
The federal Family First Prevention Services Act, signed into law in February 2018, authorized reforms aimed at helping to keep children safely with their families and out of foster care.
“For several years, DHS, our partners, and stakeholders have worked closely together to build a system that is focused on one value – every child deserves a safe, stable family every day,” Director Martin said. “The prevention plan will allow us to expand those efforts and offer more effective services to strengthen families and keep kids safely in their communities.”