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Talking Points and Messaging Tips

These talking points are designed to help you communicate with key stakeholders about Family First. Here are a few tips to portray your messages effectively:

  • Build talking points around the mission, values, and vision of your agency.
  • Explain how the overarching goals and focus of Family First supports the values your agency shares with stakeholders.
  • Describe the possibilities for exciting new opportunities, innovations, community partnerships, and other actions provided by Family First implementation; reinforce these with stories, data, and concrete examples, when possible.
  • Tailor your messages to key target audiences.
  • Try talking in short sound bites in addition to providing detailed background.

Examples of talking points:

Shared vision, values, and mission reflected in Family First

  • Youth involved with the child welfare system should grow up in safe, stable, and secure families that support their long-term well-being. Research shows that growing up in a family is essential for all youth, especially those who have experienced abuse or neglect.
  • Systems should work to keep families together by providing access to prevention services, so children and teens can grow up in their own home and caregivers who need access to treatment and support services can improve their ability to care safely for their kids.
  • Children and teens who cannot stay at home should live with relatives or close friends. When this is not possible, they should live with a loving and supportive foster family.

True transformation will take time

Family First is the first major modernization and overhaul of the child welfare system in three decades and the proper implementation of all elements will take time.

Beyond Family First implementation, policy modernization will always be needed, based on lessons learned and evolving evidence on what works best for our children, teens, and families. Family First supports DCBS’s ongoing child welfare system transformation efforts. Kentucky now has additional resources to promote innovation, collaboration, and partnerships thanks to the federal dollars that can be used for prevention services.

Family First offers help and hope for children, teens, and families

The law provides an opportunity for positive change and supports ongoing efforts to transform our child welfare system by keeping children and teens safely with their own family and to avoid the often-traumatizing experience of unnecessary placement into the foster care system.

  • Prevention services, including in-home, skills-based training for parents; mental health care, including family therapy; and substance abuse and treatment programs, are important parts of Family First.
  • When it is determined that children need to enter foster care, Family First specifically calls for them to be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting to meet their individual needs.
  • The law recognizes that treatment programs can provide short-term, customized therapeutic support while kids are living in families. This could be with birth parents, other relatives, close friends, or foster caregivers. Residential treatment may be needed for short-term stabilization, as well as follow-up services when children return to their family.
  • Federally reimbursed services are meant to support and strengthen families, so children don’t enter foster care. They are also meant to maintain child and family connections when children enter foster care or require short-term residential treatment. And they provide six months of aftercare when a child has transitioned home from a residential (QRTP) setting.

The opioid epidemic

The national opioid crisis has been a motivating factor for broad support of Family First. The number of children in foster care has increased dramatically nationally, and data shows that is largely attributed to the opioid addiction crisis.

  • Family First offers new supports for our families struggling with substance use disorders by providing access to mental health care, substance abuse programs, treatment services, and increased support for grandparents and other relatives to care for children.
  • In appropriate cases, children can stay with their parents while at residential substance abuse treatment programs for drug or alcohol addiction.

Additional language for target audiences:

Youth welfare policy should support families

  • Research shows that kids of all ages need close family relationships to develop and grow. Attachment is needed for healthy child and adolescent development; without it, children struggle when they are younger and throughout adulthood.
  • Separation from family is traumatic for children; it’s painful for parents, too. When it’s decided to separate children from parents, we owe them the best possible care and family is the best choice, starting with relatives or close friends.
  • While children who enter foster care have experienced significant trauma, removal from their family is itself an additional trauma that compounds that experience.
  • Family First supports families in crisis, promoting resilience and healing to address the underlying reasons that children come into foster care in the first place.
  • To provide high-quality services to children and families, public agencies and family courts need community support — a wide array of stakeholders, advocates, and our families need to collaborate and work together, guided by the communities they serve. Children and youth do best in a strong family and families do best in supportive communities.
  • Child and family safety and well-being are at the center of our work. They deserve access to quality services designed around evidence-based research and outcomes.
  • Children and teens touched by our child welfare system need to have the right options, at the right time, with the right services for themselves and their families.

Family First supports efforts to address the opioid crisis

  • Parental substance use and the ongoing opioid crisis are having a major impact on the increasing numbers of children entering foster care around the country.
  • Over one-third of children entering foster care do so at least in part as a result of parental substance abuse.
  • Keeping families safely together while parents receive needed treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) improves the likelihood that parents will recover. It also reduces the trauma children experience in entering foster care.
  • Family First allows states to use federal foster care dollars to keep families safely together, by funding treatment and service options for parents when children are at imminent risk of entering foster care.
  • Family First also allows states to use federal foster care (Title IV-E) dollars to place children with their parent or caregiver in trauma-informed treatment centers.

Messaging tips when talking to agency leaders and providers

  • Concerns about finding good foster parents can be reframed as the need to focus more resources on better identification and support of kinship care, individualized child and teen recruitment programs, certification standards, and training and support of foster and kinship resource families.
  • Add examples of success stories of kids safely living with or returning to their families and the decreased need for out-of-home placements based on preventive services for parents.
  • Put “loving” before “family” when discussing the benefits to kids of relative or foster families.