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Friday, March 25, 2011

Child Welfare: Recent and Proposed Federal Funding

Emilie Stoltzfus
Specialist in Social Policy

Child welfare services and supports are intended to ensure and improve the safety, permanence, and well-being of children. This report discusses the President’s FY2012 budget request for child welfare programs, as submitted to Congress on February 14, 2011. It compares that request to the funding provided by Congress for those same programs in FY2010 (and pending for FY2011). Most child welfare programs are administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, a few are administered by the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice.

The President’s FY2012 budget seeks close to $8.3 billion for the child welfare programs discussed in this report. This includes $250 million to support the first year of a 10-year ($2.5 billion) legislative proposal for foster care reform. With these funds the Administration proposes to (1) provide incentives to states to improve the safety, permanence, and well-being of children in, or at risk of entering, foster care; (2) reduce “costly and unnecessary” administrative requirements tied to the federal foster care program; and (3) support greater use of proven strategies to continue states’ success at improving certain child welfare outcomes while also expanding knowledge about those strategies by supporting child welfare demonstration projects. The President’s budget also calls for a five-year reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program that is aligned with this reform proposal. It does not seek additional funding for the program.

Overall, the President seeks FY2012 funding for the child welfare programs discussed in this report that is a little less than the FY2010 funding appropriated for them, but it is more than the level of funding expected to be provided for those programs in FY2011. Although final funding levels for the current fiscal year have not yet been approved, any sizeable difference between the expected FY2011 funding level and the level of funding requested for FY2012 is not likely to result from changes in discretionary funding that might be provided. This is because most federal child welfare funding (roughly 92%) is provided on a mandatory basis (primarily under the Title IV-E foster care and permanency program). Further, the Administration currently projects that it will need fewer dollars for the Title IV-E program in FY2011 than it will require in FY2012.

Congress has not yet finalized FY2011 appropriations. Since the beginning of the current fiscal year (October 1, 2010) funding has been provided through a series of continuing resolutions. Those resolutions have supported child welfare programs at the funding levels provided under current law and with discretionary funding levels as they were set in FY2010. The current continuing resolution (P.L. 112-4) extends funding until March 18, 2011 (or until a full year appropriations bill is enacted, whichever comes first). Like the earlier continuing resolutions, it appropriates mandatory funding for the child welfare programs discussed in this report at current law levels and, with one exception, it also continues discretionary funding for those programs at the levels provided for them in FY2010. The exception relates to reduced funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in the amount provided in FY2010 for earmark projects under that act. Previously, on February 19, the House passed a bill (H.R. 1) that would provide full year FY2011 funding for child welfare programs discussed in this report at the same levels as P.L. 112-4. The Senate is expected to take up full-year continuing appropriations during the week beginning on March 7, 2011. 

Table 1
in this report shows the share of dedicated child welfare funding provided by general category for recent years and as is pending, or proposed, for FY2011 and FY2012. Table 2 includes recent and proposed funding levels by child welfare program.

Date of Report: March 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34121
Price: $29.95

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