Operationalizing changes for Family First

September 28, 2021

The September Family First Implementation Team meeting opened with a recording of poet Slam Anderson’s powerful spoken word on her experience in foster care. What if, she asked, child welfare had been able to help her mom before things “got bad?”

It’s a simple question that has brought us to this moment at which we – all of us caseworkers at our core – prepare to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act. It is the same question that will drive our work forward into this new era.

I am proud of and thankful for the work Colorado’s child welfare community has done to prepare us for Family First. Families have raised their voices and rolled up their sleeves to work alongside us. County staff have joined innumerable committees and work groups to develop new policy and practice. Providers have remained steadfast in their work while evolving their business models. State staff across departments and offices have come together to rewrite rule and facilitate discussion.

Much of that work has been made official through statute changes, new rules and memos. The most recent memos I’m sharing today offer further guidance to operationalize new practice that is mandated by the federal government under Family First:

As child welfare teams across the state put into action what has been in the planning stages since 2018, we will listen for feedback, streamline our processes, develop new tools, clarify guidance, and then ultimately formalize what we have tested in the field through the rule-writing process and approval by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Policy Advisory Committee and the Colorado State Board of Human Services.

Feedback can be provided through a number of formal settings, and anyone can email me directly at joseph.homlar@state.co.us. I – and the team at CDHS – want to hear from you.

CDHS will host weekly Family First office hours, which are open to anyone with a question about Family First or in need of technical assistance. Our provider community can continue to contact their licensing specialist for support and counties can continue to contact their child welfare intermediary, too.

Recently, I’ve found inspiration in the words of some of our newest caseworkers, reminding me why this work is so important.

Mikayla Jones, a Jefferson County caseworker, put it best when she said “when a case closes with the family safely together, it means the parents put in a lot of work and they didn’t give up. That should always be celebrated.”

I agree, Mikayla. We know that families are better together, and that’s why we’re doing this work.  

In partnership,

Joe Homlar
Director, Division of Child Welfare

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