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Tuesday, May 3, 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 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 (P.L. 111-117) funding appropriated for them ($8.4 billion), but that is more than the level of funding provided for those programs in FY2011 ($7.7 billion) (P.L. 112-10). About 92% of the funding discussed in this report is provided on a mandatory basis and the Title IV-E Foster Care and Permanency program, which is funded on an open-ended entitlement basis, represents the largest part of that mandatory funding. Accordingly, the changes in overall funding, as provided and as requested, are due primarily to the Obama Administration’s expectation of different funding levels needed for the Title IV-E Foster Care and Permanency program. Specifically, for FY2011, as enhanced federal support under the Title IV-E program (enacted earlier as part of economic stimulus legislation) is phased out, the Administration expects states to claim less Title IV-E foster care funding and to make relatively modest increased claims for Title IV-E permanency support (i.e., adoption and kinship guardianship assistance). However, the Obama Administration requests Title IV-E program funding for FY2012 that is above the expected FY2011 program needs (but not as high as FY2010). The increased FY2012 request for the program is based on an expectation of expanded state permanency claims as well as a legislative proposal (discussed above) to provide incentive funding to states that improve certain outcomes for children in foster care and for other program improvements.

Only about 8% of the child welfare funding discussed in this report is provided on a discretionary basis. CRS estimates that P.L. 112-10 will provide about $11 million less for child welfare programs with discretionary funding as compared to their FY2010 funding. At the same time, the FY2011 funding level for these programs is expected to only be about $2 million less than the amount requested by the Obama Administration for those same programs in FY2012. 

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

Date of Report: April 20, 2011
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34121
Price: $29.95

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