Keep Kids Safe

Family First

Family First allows Pennsylvania to use federal funding to help children safely stay with their parents or relatives and out of the foster care system.


The Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) was signed into law in February 2018 by amending Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act.

Family First is comprised of 11 provisions. Out of the 11 provisions, the two that have the most impact in Pennsylvania are the optional Title IV-E Prevention Program (implemented on October 1, 2021) and the required limitation on Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments for placements that are not foster family homes (imposed on October 1, 2021). 

Requirements and funding opportunities from the Family First Prevention Services Act are being successfully implemented into current child welfare practice and are being used as a catalyst to better support families and improve the array of services available to them across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s Family First Vision Statement

​In Pennsylvania, we are enhancing our child maltreatment prevention efforts and strengthening families. This will be accomplished through partnerships and empowering families and communities to build supports that enhance the safety of children and youth. 

  • We strengthen community-based programs and evidence-based services, so they are trauma-informed, healing-centered, culturally relevant, and responsive to unique child and family strengths and needs. High quality services grow in communities that support families impacted by the effects of stress and behavioral health conditions and address cross-generational trauma.
  • We encourage the use of evidence-based services that prevent child abuse and neglect through meaningful family engagement practices and strengths-based teaming that secure positive outcomes for the whole family.
  • We value engaging and empowering children, youth, families, system partners, and communities to aid in strengthening the child welfare system while using data to drive decisions and measure success.
  • We work to ensure prevention services are accessible to all families.
  • We ensure basic needs such as food, healthcare, education, and shelter are met by collaborating with other government agencies, private community-based organizations, local leadership, and the court system.
  • We prioritize and support safe kinship care when children are unable to safely remain in their primary home. We ensure that if a higher level of care is required it is safe, trauma-informed, and focused on children safely returning home and attaining permanency and positive outcomes for the whole family.
  • We promote and support the child welfare system's values of honesty, cultural awareness, responsiveness, teaming, organizational excellence, respect, and most importantly, believing in children, youth, and families

Prevention & Treatment Services

  • Mental health prevention and treatment 
  • Substance use prevention and treatment 
  • In-home parenting skill-based programs
  • Resources for caregivers 
  • Resources for youth transitioning to adulthood
  • Enhanced sstandards for kids in residential area

Key Provisions

Pennsylvania implementation on key Family First Prevention Services Act's provisions:

Prevention Services

Specialized Settings

Kinship Navigator

​Kinship care is the full-time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives or any adult who has a "kinship" bond with the children. These caregivers may include grandparents, aunts or uncles, siblings of the children requiring care, cousins or non-blood "relatives," such as a teacher, coach or family friend. Pennsylvania developed a Kinship Navigator Program called KinConnector. Specially trained navigators known as KinConnectors support kin families caring for their relatives by providing information, resources, and program referral assistance. The KinConnectors respond to incoming telephone calls, emails and website inquiries as well as make collaborative contacts with other organizations who serve kinship families.

A Kinship Navigator Advisory Committee comprised of professionals, grandparents, other kinship families, and individuals who were raised by a grandparent or relative, has been established. This committee helps guide program development by making recommendations on the array of needed services to better meet the needs of kinship families.  KinConnector can be reached toll-free at 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111) or at

Family First amended the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (Chafee) program to allow states the option to extend aftercare services to former foster youth up to their 23rd birthday (previously 21st birthday). Aftercare services help prevent or minimize setbacks that can occur after a youth discharge is discharged from care. After reviewing the recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Council, the Department of Human Services (DHS) opted into this provision effective July 1, 2020.  Pennsylvania's aftercare services include the full range of Independent Living services and supports and are available to any youth who exited foster care on or after their 14th birthday and prior to their 23rd birthday. Eligible youth include:

  • Youth who experience foster care at age 14 or older.
  • Youth who exited care at age 18 or extended care up to age 21.
  • Youth who exited care through adoption or legal guardian after attaining age 16.
  • Youth who exited care through reunification at age 14 or older.

In addition, beginning July 1, 2020, DHS opted to extend eligibility for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher program, known as Education and Training Grant (ETG) in Pennsylvania, to youth up until their 26th birthday (previously 23rd birthday).  ETG provides financial support for post-secondary education. Youth may participate in the program for up to five years.. 

ETG eligibility includes youth who are in foster care or discharged from foster care on or after attaining age 16 or exited foster care on or after age 16 to adoption or permanent legal guardianship.  Download a complete list of ETG eligibility requirements.

For more Independent Living information, pleases see OFYC bulletin entitled Youth Independent Living Services Guidelines.

The Family First Prevention Services Act made changes to the Social Security Act to expand the requirement for criminal record and registry checks to all adults working in child care institutions under Act 47, signed on July 2, 2019. This act amended the Child Protective Services Law. Child care institutions include child residential facilities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), which is in part comprised of the Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.