Washington is one of nine states that have been selected for a new federal waiver program that was approved by President Obama in 2011, as part of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act. In preparation of the wavier application and state reform on child welfare services in March 2012, Washington State signed the following bills into law; Senate Bill 6555- Family Assessment Response (FAR), House Bill 2536 Evidence Based Practices, House Bill 2264 Performance Based Contracting, and House Bill 2263 Reinvesting Savings.
The new program Family Assessment Response (FAR) offers alternatives to Child Protective Services (CPS) and promotes the focus to a family’s needs. CPS will determine and refer families to FAR, Investigative Response, or Screen out. Families with intakes screened in for low to moderate risk, minor physical abuse or neglect will be offered FAR. Families with intakes screened in for imminent harm, high risk serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, serious high risk neglect and criminal situations will be assigned to the investigative response and court intervention.
The federal waiver does not allocate additional funds to the state, however it allows the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to obtain and make better use of federal public funds within the child welfare system for prevention and in home services. Currently, the federal government provides funding reimbursements for eligible children in out of home care. The waiver allows DSHS to evaluate families on individual basis and intervene with services that could help preserve families and keep children in their own homes. DSHS will be able to provide families with preventative and support services, with federal funding such as housing assistance. The Department can now obtain and use these funds to prevent out of home care, reentry into the foster care system and court intervention.
The goal of the FAR pathway is to assess the family’s strengths and needs, offer services to meet their needs and prevent future maltreatment. The FAR assessment is completed in collaboration with the family. Involvement with FAR will be voluntary. The FAR programs guidelines allow the Department 45 days -90 with an extension to connect the family to support services and community service providers. The success of the FAR pathway will require the community’s involvement and resources. Clark County rolled out Family Assessment Response in October 2014.