After the fanfare: Family First one year later - AEI



Event Summary

On Thursday, AEI hosted a panel discussion on the effectiveness of the Family First Prevention Services Act a year after its passage. The panel featured Sean Hughes of Social Change Partners, Mark Mecum of Ohio Children’s Alliance, Eric W. Bjorklund of Utah Youth Village, Marie K. Cohen of the Child Welfare Monitor, and Christine Calpin of Casey Family Programs.

Mr. Hughes, Mr. Mecum, and Mr. Bjorklund discussed how time and funding constraints make it difficult at the state level to provide the evidence-based standards necessary to receive federal reimbursement. They also touched on the ethical problems with conducting randomized controlled trials. Ms. Cohen and Mr. Mecum explained how state programs and facilities have consequently covered additional expenses for childcare in response to lower levels of federal assistance. Ms. Calpin noted that the act has received positive feedback from adoption agencies and that other health-related needs should be met by health-related funding instead of childcare funding.

— Jessica Schultz

Event Description

One year has passed since the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act. This bipartisan legislation offered states the option to apply Title IV-E foster care funds toward preventive services intended to keep children in homes with their families. The legislation also placed a cap on the amount of federal funds that could be used to fund residential institutions for kids in foster care.

Congressional leaders have sent a letter to Health and Human Services voicing concerns over missed deadlines and the pace at which preventive service programs are approved for reimbursement. Meanwhile, state leaders are struggling to find alternatives to residential foster institutions, which could mean leaving children in unsafe homes.

Please join us as a panel of experts explains how Family First is progressing around the country.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


10:45 AM

11:00 AM
Welcome and introduction:
Naomi Schaefer Riley, AEI

11:10 AM
Panel discussion

Eric W. Bjorklund, Utah Youth Village
Christine Calpin, Casey Family Programs
Marie K. Cohen, Child Welfare Monitor
Sean Hughes, Social Change Partners
Mark Mecum, Ohio Children’s Alliance

Naomi Schaefer Riley, AEI

12:15 PM

12:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact William Kessler at [email protected], 202.862.7193.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Event Speaker Biographies

Eric W. Bjorklund is the executive director, president, and CEO of Utah Youth Village, a not-for-profit provider of programs for children and families with challenges. Mr. Bjorklund has been an ardent advocate for Utah’s children by serving as past president of the Utah Youth Providers Network and as a member of various statewide committees, including the Governor’s Commission on Women and Families, the Governor’s Initiative on Families Today, the Utah Division of Family Services Out of Home Care Advisory Committee, the Utah State Bar Committee on Children, and the Coalition of Utah Families. He is also the past president of the Utah Coalition of Child Advocates.

Christine Calpin is the managing director of public policy at Casey Family Programs, where she supports the foundation’s efforts to inform and educate federal and state policymakers to improve outcomes among children and families. Before joining Casey Family Programs, Ms. Calpin worked at the Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as lead congressional staffer for the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the US House Committee on Ways and Means and worked as an analyst in social legislation for the Congressional Research Service.

Marie K. Cohen is a child advocate, researcher, and policy analyst. She worked as social worker in the District of Columbia’s child welfare system for five years and is currently a member of the Citizen’s Review Committee for the DC Child and Family Services Agency and the DC Child Fatality Review Committee. Her blog, the Child Welfare Monitor, advocates for a child welfare system that prioritizes children’s needs. Ms. Cohen received a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University and a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland.

Sean Hughes is a managing partner of government relations for Social Change Partners, which assists public agencies and other service providers to implement policy solutions and practice innovations within child-serving systems. Previously, Mr. Hughes worked as a congressional staffer and was involved in the authoring and passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. He also served as director of congressional affairs for the Child Welfare League of America.

Mark Mecum is the CEO for Ohio Children’s Alliance. In this role, he directs the association’s strategic initiatives, advocacy and lobbying responsibilities, and development of collaborative partnerships. Mr. Mecum is currently serving on several government task forces and commissions, including the Ohio Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice, the Behavioral Health Redesign Workgroup, the Foster Care Advisory Group, the Partners for Ohio’s Families advisory board, and the Bridges advisory board.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at AEI, where she focuses on child welfare and foster care issues. Specifically, her work analyzes the role of faith-based, civic, and community organizations in changing the foster care and adoption services landscape. She also studies how socioeconomic factors affect foster care placement and services and the impact of the opioid crisis on child welfare. She is concurrently a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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