Update on Family First in Colorado

April 20, 2020

Dear Partner,

During this time of uncertainty and change, I want to thank you for your continued commitment to the important work that we share. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting physical distancing bring to the forefront the importance of the Family First Prevention Services Act. For many of us, the security and comfort of family and community are needed more now than ever before.

Colorado’s IV-E and prevention plans are completed and have been reviewed by multiple stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of Family First. However, in light of new financial projections and federal guidance, CDHS has decided to revisit the state's opt-in strategy. We want to keep the spirit and importance of this legislation at the forefront, and we believe that our strategy should always prioritize the well-being of children, youth and families in Colorado.   

In practice, delaying our opt-in date means changing the date Colorado plans to stop drawing down federal funds under the traditional reimbursement model and begin using the Family First reimbursement model. This does not slow down our ongoing progress to implement the practices and principles of Family First. In fact, long before Family First passed, Colorado was practicing many of the strategies and best practices that the federal law now incentivizes. The decision to delay opting-in provides more time to develop prevention infrastructure in communities across the state. This additional capacity building will ensure that when Colorado is prepared to opt-in, we will be better positioned to leverage new federal funding streams and provide the high-quality, responsive services that our families need and deserve.

I want to share the information we have and how we made this decision. 

Last week, a coalition of state and county partners completed a fiscal impact analysis. This analysis indicated that if Colorado opted into Family First in August 2020, the state could lose between $3 to $4 million of federal revenue annually. While the new Family First funding structure would allow access to new federal prevention funds, current estimates of these funds indicate that they would not sufficiently offset the state’s loss. In light of the potential fiscal impact of COVID-19, this loss could compound the state’s financial stress and jeopardize our ability to appropriately serve children, youth and families.

We are reevaluating when the benefits of new Family First prevention funding will outweigh any financial risks. Only then can we truly leverage Family First as a new opportunity to increase funding for good practice and accelerate innovation. A delay in opting into the financial components of Family First should not overshadow the good work and progress already achieved, and will not slow our momentum during this critical time.

CDHS will continue our work to implement systems and services that are truly responsive to the needs of kids and families and look forward to leaning in even more to our partnerships. 

I want to thank members of the Implementation Team, county staff and leadership, advocates and families, and our partners from other state agencies. Your fierce commitment to improving practice and dedication to collaboration has already done so much to strengthen our families and communities. I look forward to our continued progress as we work together for a better Colorado. 

If you would like to voice any concerns or have questions, please contact Kari Daggett (kari.daggett@state.co.us) or Yumiko Dougherty (yumiko.dougherty@state.co.us). 


Michelle Barnes
Executive Director
Colorado Department of Human Services

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