Nebraska Families to Benefit from New Federal Child Welfare Prevention Law

News Release
For Immediate Release: 10/1/2019

Lee Rettig, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287,


DHHS to Host Press Conference on Family First Prevention Services Act 

Lincoln – Nebraska is leading the nation as an early adopter of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First), which goes into effect with the start of the new federal fiscal year, today. The state has committed to implementing prevention-focused child welfare programs as part of the first major modernization and overhaul of the national child welfare system in three decades.

“Family First supports our mission of helping people live better lives and creates an opportunity to be responsive to the specific needs of children, teens and families," said Dannette R. Smith, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Executive Officer. “By providing a federal funding stream that supports quality prevention services, Family First creates an opportunity for us to engage the entire community in our effort to keep children with their families and out of the child welfare system."

Previously, federal funding for child welfare was largely available to states only after a child enters the foster care system. Under Family First, states can utilize federal funds for programs that strengthen families and reduce the trauma that occurs when a child is removed from his or her home.

As an early adopter of Family First, DHHS has submitted a five-year prevention program plan to its federal partners. The plan includes the implementation of an array of evidence-based prevention services designed to empower families at-risk of entering the child welfare system. The services include in-home, skills-based training for parents; mental health care, including family therapy; and substance abuse treatment programs.

“We know that separation causes trauma that can lead to a lifetime of emotional and psychological problems," Smith said. “Children and youth do best in strong families and supportive communities."

When children do need to be removed from their families for safety reasons, Family First calls for maintaining child and family connections and for children to be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting to meet their individual needs.

DHHS's Division of Children and Family Services (CFS) has been focused on prevention and reducing the number of children removed from their families in recent years. In the last two years, those placed in out-of-home settings for safety reasons has declined by nearly 15% and a majority of the children who are removed have been placed with family or friends.

“CFS' stated mission is to provide the least disruptive services when needed, for only as long as needed, to give children the opportunity to succeed as adults," Smith said. “Family First aligns with that mission and will allow our agency to continue to strengthen families and keep children safe."

A copy of DHHS' Five Year Prevention Program Plan and an overview of Family First can be found on the DHHS Family First website.

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NOTE – A press conference to further explain the impact Family First will have on child welfare in Nebraska will be held Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. at CEDARS Northbridge, located at 1533 N. 27th Street in Lincoln. Speakers will include DHHS CEO Dannette R. Smith, Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore, representatives of partner child welfare agencies and a family significantly impacted by DHHS' current prevention efforts.


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