Center For Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement, and Support Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the Center for Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement, and Support?
A: The CDSS contracted with UC Davis to launch The Center for Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement and Support (CFE). The CFE provides multiered, culturally appropriate training and technical assistance to county child welfare and probation departments, participating tribes, and foster care providers, to enhance their practices, policies, and efforts for family finding, support, and engagement.
Q: How is the CFE defining kin-first culture?
A: Kin-First culture is an environment that is created when every system that engages with families and children adopts policies, practices, trainings and accountability structures in partnerships with families that require every effort be made to keep children safely at home and, if a child must be removed from their home, to partner with the family to figure out where the safest place within the family for the child to live. In kin first culture, agencies, and family’s partner to keep children connected to their communities, families, culture, and tribe. Kin First culture gives families and communities the opportunity to heal from trauma together.
Q: How can Child Welfare and Probation departments access Family Finding, Engagement and Support program funds?
A: The Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement, and Support (EFFES) is an opt in program. Counties that choose to opt into the EFFES Program will be able to do so by submitting a written plan which must include the following information:
• Certification that the county has or will hire family-finding workers who have experience or training in family-finding strategies and practice and who are assigned to family-finding responsibilities full-time (the family finding workers may be employed by the participating county or a nonprofit community-based organization).
• Explanation of how the county will provide the required match of local funds, which may include in-kind contributions of services or other resources.
• Explanation of how the county intends to use the funds.
• Explanation of the family finding models, programs, strategies, or promising practice the county intends to implement. A county that elects to opt into the program may begin accessing funds upon written notification from CDSS that the county’s written plan has been approved, which will include the date of its approval.
Q: Does each County Child Welfare and Probation department get a certain amount of funding allocated to them?
A: Counties have been allocated an amount that assumes all counties opt to participate in the program. Counties that elect to participate in the Program will be able to access funding beginning in FY 2022-23. Counties who choose to participate in the Program must opt in by June 30, 2025. After June 30, 2025, allocations from those counties that did not opt-in by June 30, 2025, will be allocated to counties that did opt-in in order to maximize funding. All funds must be expended by June 30, 2027. Counties that opt to participate in the program must demonstrate a 50 percent match of local funds for each state dollar being offered through the program. These local funds may include in-kind contributions of services or other resources from the county or community-based organizations. Allocated funds may not supplant existing county funds but must be used to expand county services. See CFL NO. 22/23-52 and CFL NO. 22/23-49
NOTE: Federal and state general funds may not be used as county matching dollars, however realigned or Local Revenue Fund (LRF) dollars may be used.
Q: How soon will counties be notified that they are approved to receive EFFES program funds?
A: Written notification will be sent to the applicant county within two weeks of application receipt as to the approval or clarity needed for their plan. An allocation letter will be sent following notification that the certification and funding plan is approved.
Q: Does a county have to opt into the EFFES program to access other CFE resources?
A: No, the EFFES program is tied to the funding available to counties, probation, and tribes. The Resources that are found on the CFE website are available to all interested agencies and tribes. Please access more information about the CFE on the UC Davis Website
Q: What are the EFFES funds meant to be used for?
A: The EFFES program funding must be used for specialized permanency services and supports that augment existing funding. Funds may not supplant funds for existing family finding and engagement programs; however, counties and Tribes may use funds to expand their existing programs. The funded activities shall include any of the following activities described in WIC Section 16546.5(e):
(1) Training of staff on family finding and engagement practices, and models (e.g., Cultural Brokers, Upfront Family Finding, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids) approved by CDSS, in consultation with counties, stakeholders, and the advisory committee. Approved practices and models will be posted on an ongoing basis on the Center for Excellence website and specific tools, resources, trainings, and consultants will be available through the Center for Excellence to support counties in implementing approved practices and models.
(2) Staffing and tools to identify, locate, and engage persons related to the child by blood or marriage, identification, and engagement of other family-like relationships, and in the case of an Indian child, to make active efforts to engage with the tribe to determine the child’s extended family members, as defined in WIC section 224.1. 1. This may include use of internet and social media tools, An Indian child’s extended family members shall be as defined by the law or custom of the Indian child’s tribe or, in the absence of such law or custom, shall be a person who has reached the age of eighteen and who is the Indian child’s grandparent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, niece or nephew, first or second cousin, or stepparent. If a county is planning on purchasing a technology tool to support family finding, this will require an Advance Planning Document (APD) that shall be submitted through the normal APD process.
(3) Outreach and engagement of the child and family team members and all other current and prior service providers, case managers, and other connections to the foster child, to identify and engage possible family and family-like connections.
(4) Plan development and case management for the child, family, and family-like connections to identify and address any barriers to establishing or reestablishing positive, loving, and supportive relationships. Counties and participating Tribes shall engage children continuously in plan development, case planning, and services of importance to the child.
(5) Implementation of model programs, strategies, or promising practices identified by the department in consultation with Tribes, CWDA, CPOC, and child and youth advocacy organizations. The model programs, strategies, or promising practices include, but are not limited to, model programs, strategies, or promising practices that focus on up front family finding and engagement and that focus on family finding and engagement techniques to find permanent families and relationships for foster children who have been in out-of-home foster care for 24 months or longer, who are not living with a relative, for whom reunification is no longer in the case plan, and who have not been placed with a family who is in the process of adopting them or assuming guardianship over them.
Q: Can funds be used to purchase FFE service subscriptions?
A: Counties that intend to use the funding for software purchases and/or subscriptions must submit an Advance Planning Document (APD). Please see ACL 23-55 for additional information on the APD process.
Q: Can child welfare agencies and probation departments collaborate and submit one plan, or must they be separate plans?
A: Yes, child welfare agencies and probation departments may collaborate and submit one plan.
Q: If our county decided to opt-in, will we know which other counties have also opted in?
A: Yes! Part of the CFE’s intention is to implement Peer to Peer support and opportunities for counties to engage with each other to brainstorm, problem solve, and support each other.
Q: Can an FFE position be split? Two staff with a 50% dedication to family finding?
A: No, staff must be assigned to family-finding engagement responsibilities as their fulltime duties. There may be a part time position, but 100% of their time must be spent in family finding, engagement, and support efforts.

Practical Application and Impact on Practice

Q: Will the family finding, engagement, and support program training be for the entire unit (e.g., juvenile division) or just the Family Finding Specialist?
A: The Center for Excellence is designing trainings targeted at all aspects of the child welfare system and the system of care partners that support children and families with the goal of transforming the culture to be a kin-first culture.
Trainings will be developed to support leadership, staffing models, resource flows, and culture change within the county inclusive of child welfare, probation departments, foster care providers, judicial partners, attorneys, and system of care partners (healthcare, education, developmental services, etc.)
Q: Where can we find resources for models, trainings, and learning opportunities?
A: The CDSS has a Center For Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement, and Support webpage. There you will find contact information, and related ACLs and CFLs.
UC Davis also has a Center for Excellence in Family Finding, Engagement, and Support webpage where you will find Webinars from past trainings, find and register for TA Office hours, and resources to help you begin developing your county plan.

Funding and Fiscal

Q: What is the difference between "Direct Expenditure" and "Internal In-Kind CWD" in the claiming codes? The descriptions for both codes are exactly the same except for the ratios. Can you give examples?
A: The difference is how the county would like to document the local portion of the costs for the EFFES program to draw down federal and state reimbursement. Direct costs are typical expenditures counties would claim like any other program, whereby they claim directly to the EFFES program. The Internal CWD in-kind match is used if the county would like to apply the cost of allowable in-kind activities, such as family finding activities, that are claimed under a different program code (PC) (like relative search) and would like to count the county-only expenditure as a match for the EFFES program. The county worker performs the same activities for both EFFES PCs, however it is up to the county fiscal worker to determine whether direct expenditure or a match is the best choice, depending on the various types of matches available in that state fiscal year.
Examples one and four of Attachment I in CFL 22/23-52 demonstrate how the county will calculate the direct costs or internal in-kind matches.
Q: What are some examples of the way Matching funds can be used.
A: The $150 million in family finding, support, and engagement funds may be used for a wide range of family finding, support, and engagement activities provided the county has dedicated family finding and engagement workers on staff.
• Monies can be allocated for staff positions, hiring new staff or modifying a current staff roles and responsibilities.
• Purchase new contracts for service providers.
• Counties can utilize funds to modify current contracts by expanding the contract with a specific model.
• Could use money to contract for Wayfinder services for an ‘x’ number of children.
Q: Beyond staff and programing, can counties use funds for family travel expenses or other concrete expenses?
A: The $150 million for family finding, engagement, and support could be utilized to fund family travel expenses as long as the county has dedicated family finding and support specialists. However, counties also have access to $50 million in funding for flexible family supports, which are also available to support travel and connection of the child to their family members so counties may want to consider which funds to draw from for this purpose.
Q: Could we use the funding in support of Wayfinder for specific youth with complex care needs to find homes for the youth?
A: Yes! There are no restrictions on what the demographics of the youth are or where the youth is in the child welfare process.
Q: If there is a staff currently performing this work, can we use EFFES funds to pay for their time?
Answer: No, allocated funds cannot supplant existing funds, however the EFFES funds can be used to expand existing programs or create new positions and programs.
Q: Can Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) combine both agencies matching funds to increase the awarded amount?
A: Yes, it is important to know who is doing what programmatically to ensure both are receiving the service benefits.
Q: Where can I find more information on the fiscal and planning part of this?
A: County Fiscal Letter No. 22/23-49 and County Fiscal Letter No. 22/23-52


Q: What amount of $150 Million is set aside for Tribes?
A: 5% ($7.5 million) has been set aside specifically for Tribes.
Q: Do tribes have to match funds to get an allocation like the counties?
A: No, Tribes do not have a matching requirement.
Q: How can Tribes get access to the funds?
A: The initial allocations from the $7.5 million set-aside for participating Tribes will be based upon providing an equal allocation to all 109 potentially eligible Tribes and will be available to participating Tribes upon completion of all agreement requirements necessary, including an executed base MOU and signed exhibits to opt-in to the Program. Please note, Tribes with a Title IV-E agreement with the state do not need to execute a base MOU.
The CDSS will provide technical assistance to Tribes, consortia of Tribes, or Tribal organizations who are interested in accessing this funding. Tribes, consortia of Tribes, or Tribal organizations are strongly encouraged to contact CDSS at with technical assistance requests for any aspect of the Program.
Send Letters of interest to and CC
Q: How can allocated funds be used?
A: Allocated funds may be used as outlined above on pages 2 and 3 of this FAQ.
Additionally, the CDSS encourages participating Tribes to design and implement programs in a manner that meets local community needs – including adapting programs to match tribal structure and culture where possible. The CDSS strongly encourages regional partnerships.
Participating Tribes are not expected to have all program components fully developed upon execution of the agreement. The CDSS understands that Tribes, consortia of Tribes, and Tribal organizations may require a program planning period to sufficiently design and implement the program, as well as continued technical assistance to assist in program design and implementation.
Q: What is the time frame for using EFFES funds?
A: The deadline to opt into the program and access funding is June 30, 2025. The EFFES program funds is one-time funding with 5 years of expenditure authority, through June 30, 2027, with the possibility of reallocating any funds remaining to participating tribes following the opt in deadline.
Q: Will there be tribe specific guidance given?
A: Yes. The All-Tribal Letter for the EFFES program, developed through formal consultation was sent to Tribes in April 2023. The ATL can be found here: ATL 23-03