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Youth First

The Youth First project is an innovative collaboration between Casey Family Programs and the Catalyst Center to assist counties and providers in designing and implementing individualized programs (“Enhanced Care Programs”) for youth. After reviewing applications, the project team is pleased to announce the selection of the following county and provider participants:

More about the Youth First project…

Youth First is a demonstration project that seeks to identify innovative program designs that meet the needs of youth with complex challenges, with a focus on individualized trauma attuned services and supports focused on permanency. The project will build on the existing Intensive Services Foster Care and STRTP license categories as the foundation for the new programs (sometimes referred to as “Enhanced ISFC,” “ISFC Plus,” and “STRTP of One”). The project team will provide technical assistance and a learning community for participants to design programs, staffing models, clinical practices, budget development, licensing, and funding sources. Youth First will also have an evaluation component, and participating counties and providers will maintain important information in order to determine the efficacy of these individualized approaches. Youth First aims to serve a minimum of 75 California foster and probation youth in Enhanced Care Programs with the goal of meeting the complex care needs of youth in family-based care and ultimately, a successful permanent transition of youth living in their community with their family.


For questions not covered in the FAQs below, or to be apart of the "Learning Community" please send an email to
youth@catalyst-center.org.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

Project FAQS

General Questions

How long will the project last?

The Youth First project is intended to last between 6 and 18 months for each County or Provider selected.

What is an Enhanced STRTP (E-STRTP)?

In the Enhanced STRTP model, agencies utilize a staff-based placement and service model under an STRTP license. These programs provide intensive behavioral health services, funded by EPSDT contracts, while engaging in care and supervision activities funded by an enhanced STRTP placement rate. Family finding and/or building a youth’s natural support system are often part of the program design. Youth are placed alone or with one other youth in a licensed STRTP facility operating with a significantly higher staff to client ratio compared with standard STRTP.

What is an Enhanced ISFC (E-ISFC)?

For agencies using the E-ISFC model, youth are placed in a family setting with a Professional Resource Parent with an enhanced payment rate for both the agency and the resource parent. Additionally, youth receive intensive behavioral health services funded through EPSDT contracts. Family finding and/or building a youth’s natural support system are often part of the program design. Typically, youth are placed alone in an E-ISFC family and staff are available to support the youth and family within the home 24 hours per day/7 days per week. Professional Resource Parents receive additional training, support and supervision that enable them to respond in therapeutic manner to very challenging behaviors while preparing youth for transition to more traditional placement and service programs.

What are Enhanced Care Programs? How do they differ from existing programs?

Enhanced Care Programs are an alternative to group residential treatment and provide individualized care, treatment and services in an intensive and structured environment. These short-term programs are intended to stabilize youth, develop clarity about youth treatment needs through a trauma lens, create and/or support permanency plans and enable youth to transition to less-intensive services. These programs are usually designed as either Enhanced STRTP (E-STRTP) or Enhanced ISFC (E-ISFC) models. Youth receive intensive behavioral health services in both models.

In the E-STRTP model, agencies utilize a staff-based placement and service model under an STRTP license. Youth are placed alone or with one other youth in a licensed STRTP facility operating with a significantly higher staff to client ratio compared with a typical STRTP. An individualized rate is developed for the youth based on their supervision and behavioral health needs. In the E-ISFC model, youth are placed in a family setting with a Specialized Resource Parent with an enhanced payment rate for both the agency and the resource parent. Typically, youth are placed alone in an E-ISFC family and staff are available to support the youth and family within the home 24 hours per day/7 days per week. Specialized Resource Parents receive additional training, support and supervision that enable them to respond in a therapeutic manner to very challenging behaviors while preparing youth for a transition to other family-based care.

Who are the Youth Served in Enhanced Care Programs?

Enhanced Care Programs are intended to serve children and adolescents with significant behavioral health challenges that have not been successfully treated appropriately in other placement settings, but do not require acute inpatient stabilization. These youth typically have multiple identified needs, including any mix of the following: complex comorbidity, severe problems in social and/or school functioning, neuropsychological difficulties (e.g., attention, working memory), complex trauma, and developmental delays. The level of treatment required, coupled with the trauma they have experienced due to multiple placement disruptions, and often being disconnected from family and other significant people result in the need for these highly specialized interventions. Often, youth who are most appropriate for an Enhanced Care Program are already receiving, but not successfully treated by, intensive community services including, but not limited to, wraparound, crisis response, STRTPs and therapeutic behavioral services (TBS).   Additionally, these youth often have placement gaps or elopements that inhibit their ability to receive consistent intensive treatment services.  These youth may struggle in congregate care settings, spend periods of time staying in county offices or in the community and may even refuse to go into placement.  Youth are often engaging in high-risk behaviors that require intensive individualized supports in order to stabilize and step down to a lower level of care.  A prime focus includes the understanding of what has happened to the youth and not what the youth may have done. The goal of Youth First is to engage with and provide youth with complex challenges with these brief, highly individualized and intensive services, such that they are ultimately successful living in their communities with their family.

Can we apply if we don’t have an existing partnership to leverage in creating the program(s)?

Yes. If selected, we will support you in building partnerships with counties and/or providers as needed.

Are these programs developed for specific youth?

While these services use a license category of either an STRTP or an ISFC, they are designed to meet the individualized needs of the youth identified by the county placing agencies as having complex needs that cannot be addressed in the currently available continuum of services.

Is this a national project?

Youth First Project and the individualized models will be developed for youth in California.

What will be the overall outcome for this project?

The intended outcome for this project is that youth in E-ISFC and E-STRTP programs transition to a lower level of care, ideally a family-based setting.

County Questions

Can we only work with providers that have existing MH contracts?

If you are open to establishing a MH contract with a new provider, you are welcome to list that provider on your application and work with that provider if selected.

Do we have to limit potential providers to those in our county?

No, you are welcome to partner with providers outside of your county. However, you would need to develop a MH contract with that provider to fund behavioral health services for youth in the program. Additionally, you would be encouraged to identify providers within your county as well in order to help youth stay connected to their family and other natural supports.

What kind of technical assistance is being provided by Youth First to counties?

Youth First will provide technical assistance around developing partnerships, flexible funding, developing budgets, program design, provider guidance, support in licensing/certifying program locations, permanency integration and staffing model design. Additionally, Youth First will offer cross-learning opportunities as well as peer-to-peer learning on enhanced care models. 

Provider Questions

Do we need to have Medi-Cal experience in order to apply?

Yes, the program is designed to build on the provider’s existing mental health experience to launch this new program type.

If we’re selected for the program, does it guarantee a MH contract?

No, Youth First will provide guidance on the new program, but cannot guarantee that a county contract will be signed, as those decisions will be handled by negotiations with the county.

Is there financial support from Youth First to pay for the staff time needed to design and launch the programs?

No. Youth First provides consulting hours to support the development of these programs, but not startup funding.

If selected for this program, will we receive a grant from Casey Family Programs?

No, Casey Family Programs will not provide grants directly to participants.

What kind of technical assistance is being provided by Youth First to providers?

Youth First will provide technical assistance around developing county partnerships, flexible funding, developing budgets, program design, provider guidance, support in licensing/certifying program locations, permanency integration and staffing model design. Additionally, Youth First will offer cross-learning opportunities as well as peer-to-peer learning on enhanced care models. 

What does staffing look like for these enhanced programs?

The staffing for these models will differ based on youths’ needs. The staffing model will be developed as part of the technical assistance provided by Youth First. An STRTP license and/or FFA license will be needed and there will need to be staffing available to respond 24/7 to meet a youth’s treatment needs. 

Can we apply jointly with another provider?

Youth First is designed to provide technical assistance to single providers interested in designing and launching these new programs; however, a partnership could be proposed if services can be provided seamlessly to meet each youth’s individualized needs. 

Is it required to participate in the evaluation components of the Youth First Project?

Yes, the Youth First Project is a demonstration project that intends to provide evaluation of programmatic designs and interventions, such that the models can be successfully implemented and adapted in other counties, and by other providers. Participation in the project will involve data sharing and project evaluation by the Catalyst and Casey Family Programs team.

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