Colorado will implement Family First Prevention Services Act in Spring 2020

December 13, 2019

Dear Partners,

For the past year, the Family First Prevention Services Act Implementation Team has met to create Colorado’s plan to opt-in to this landmark federal legislation that shifts the nation’s child welfare system. The Implementation Team has recommended that we delay Colorado’s opt-in to Family First, originally planned for January 2020, to April 2020. I agree with the recommendation to delay opt-in and given the questions and challenges remaining (referenced below), the Colorado Department of Human Services will work to identify a new opt-in date targeted for Spring 2020.  

While recommending a delay, the Implementation Team expressed its desire that implementation should occur as soon as possible in order to maintain its incredible momentum. I agree with their assessment. The Implementation Team’s remarkable collaboration, cooperation and leadership must not slow down.

I want to thank the Implementation Team for its significant work and progress during the past year. The progress we have made would not be possible without the leadership, dedication, collaboration and time of the 28 Implementation Team members and the 50 individuals across the Implementation workgroups. The Implementation Team’s ambitious timeframe helped to push the work forward and build momentum. Despite these efforts, the Implementation Team has identified a number of challenges. 

Colorado remains committed to Family First. Every parent needs help, and I’m proud of our state’s work to provide the services and supports parents need all while keeping families together. Family First will allow us to further implement this good work, because we know that is what’s best for all children, youth and families.

For more information on Family First, please visit You can find background information on the federal legislation, FAQs about Family First in Colorado, and you can submit a question.


Michelle Barnes
Executive Director
Colorado Department of Human Services

Between today and a Spring 2020 Family First opt-in, the Colorado Department of Human Services, in collaboration with the Implementation Team and key stakeholders,  will address the following areas. As more decisions are made and federal guidance is issued, CDHS looks forward to working with the Implementation Team to determine a more specific opt-in date.

  1. Colorado’s Prevention Plan timeframe has shifted to a February deadline for submission to and approval from the federal Administration for Children and Families. Plan revisions have incorporated feedback to date. Efforts are underway to secure and include data to support Colorado’s proposed “candidacy for foster care” definition. The final draft plan will continue to be vetted for stakeholder input in January. It will then go through CDHS clearance process and be submitted for federal approval as soon thereafter as possible.
  2. A CDHS decision is still pending regarding the plan for the independent qualified individuals to conduct Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) assessments. The result of that decision will determine the time and infrastructure needed to equip and deploy the qualified individuals required to implement QRTPs. 
  3. CDHS is collaborating with Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to understand whether Colorado’s potential QRTPs will be designated as Institutes for Mental Disease (IMDs). This issue is also being discussed at the federal and local levels to discern possible impacts as it has the potential to significantly change the financial landscape of implementation. The outcome of this decision could have a substantive impact of the availability of this placement resource. The Colorado Association of Family and Children’s Agencies (CAFCA) has submitted a letter of concern to State and County leaders.
  4. Identifying the financial impact of Family First, especially within the context of other fiscal analysis work, continues. There is significant activity across multiple workgroups and committees; and, developing a collective, integrated approach with defined inputs and outcomes is critical. Completing this fiscal analysis will help determine the best time for Colorado to opt-in to Family First.
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