Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families
Recently, ACF leadership engaged with more than 500 national, state, county, and local leaders from across the country at the American Public Human Services Association’s 2018 National Health and Human Services Summit. We were proud to lead discussions with managers from the Office of Family Assistance, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Office of Child Care, Children’s Bureau, and the Office of External Affairs to underscore our commitment to strengthen families and better respond to human needs in our programs. The federal government does not have all the answers – this only comes from work that happens at the state and local level and the people who do the work on the ground.
Current ACF priorities provide opportunities for alignment and major reforms across our programs. ACF has prioritized the importance of work and returning the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to its original intent. Child support programs are now encouraged to focus resources to serve non-custodial fathers and move them to employment. We are identifying innovative strategies that states and communities are using to engage families, especially those implementing Medicaid waivers to ensure that needs of recipients match resources in the community. We will announce a new funding opportunity for Preschool Development Grants which will provide resources for a multisystem view of early childhood, while incorporating what science tells us what children need in the earliest years to be successful later in life. And, the new Family First and Prevention Services Act shifts the focus devoting significant resources to move the child welfare system from foster care to prevention and strengthening families.
The common theme in our conversations was a focus on true engagement for all the families we serve. Whether it’s giving states incentives to help non-custodial fathers enter the workforce; ensuring that children of working parents have access to quality child care programs in a variety of settings; or encouraging child welfare agencies to focus on preventing child abuse and neglect, ACF recognizes that working with our national, regional, state, county and community partners is critical. We have to engage families in new and creative ways. We recognize innovation happens at the local level. ACF wants to eliminate barriers and lift up state and local solutions.
We know that many states and counties are aligning their efforts and integrating their health and human services systems -- from intake and assessment to service delivery. We understand that this is not easy. We heard about the barriers and challenges around data sharing, interoperability, privacy and confidentiality, which make it hard to put people at the center of programs. ACF is listening to states and partners to identify ways we can reduce these barriers and help jurisdictions re-think serving families.
We are committed to accountability as stewards of federal tax dollars, while giving our state and local partners flexibility to improve self-sufficiency and well-being outcomes for families. We look forward to our continued conversations as a critical element in working together to strengthen families across our nation.