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A new law hopes to change foster care for the better

Posted at 11:28 AM, Oct 05, 2021

DENVER, Co. — Taking children away from parents is a heartbreaking situation. Now, a federal law just put into effect Oct. 1 is hoping to prevent those moments.

The Families First Prevention Services Act aims to move away from placing children into residential facilities or group homes, and instead, keeps them in either a foster home or, preferably, their own home. In order to do that, federal dollars will be put towards services that can be accessed at the home, something that couldn't be done before.

National data says the most common reasons children end up in the foster care system are neglect and drug abuse. By providing treatment in the home, the hope is that it will heal the family unit from within.

"That could be for substance use. That could be for mental health issues that could be for really strengthening families and making more resources available to families to utilize while they're together in their home, rather than having to remove a child before you can access that funding for those support services," said Yolanda Arredondo, a child welfare professional.

She says the new law makes it so children will only be taken out of the home and into a group setting if it is absolutely necessary.

"Because that need is there not just a reaction to this family circumstance, that it really is a need to protect the safety and well-being of a child," said Arredondo, "and hopefully that's temporary and we can provide treatment-focused services to reunify the family as quickly as possible."

In Colorado, where Arredondo works, the state has already been implementing these new federal rules over the last few years. Right now, they serve 70% of children and families in their own home, 30% are with foster families. However, some advocates are concerned that since more foster homes will be needed, there won’t be enough places for children to go.

Arrendondo says she hasn’t necessarily seen that, but anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should seek out resources near them.

Hopefully, this new law means more families getting the help they need to stay together through the tough times in hopes of a brighter future.