North Dakota prepares for overhaul of federal foster care funding

BISMARCK – The North Dakota foster care system is set to undergo some major changes.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, included in the Bipartisan Budget Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in February, aims to keep children with parents or relatives rather than in the foster care system and provides additional funding for prevention services.

On Thursday, Nov. 15, the North Dakota Department of Human Services held an informational meeting on the law for counties, which administer child welfare services in the state.

Kelsey Bless, permanency administrator for the Division of Children and Family Services, called the new law “a monumental shift in federal funding.”

“It will take our deep-end services to a new level to really enhance our prevention (services), which is first in a lifetime, honestly,” she said.

The bill put more federal funding toward mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parent skills-based programs. The federal government will match state funding for these services for up to 12 months.