Search Penny Hill Press

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Child Welfare: Recent and Proposed Federal Funding

Emilie Stoltzfus
Specialist in Social Policy

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. The largest amount of federal child welfare funding is provided to states for assistance to children who have been removed from their homes (due primarily to abuse or neglect). In the past decade, the share of this support provided for children who remain in foster care has been on the decline, while the share provided for those who leave foster care for permanent homes (e.g., via adoption) has increased. Figure 1 shows this changing composition of federal child welfare funding.

The President’s FY2013 budget anticipates $8.168 billion for the child welfare programs and initiatives described in this report. Final FY2012 funding provided for child welfare programs is $8.009 billion. For most programs, the President’s FY2013 budget request closely tracks child welfare funding provided by Congress for the current fiscal year. The largest differences reflect changes in the Administration’s estimate of funds needed to reimburse eligible state claims (as authorized under current law) related to provision of foster care (-$145 million), adoption assistance (+$42 million), and guardianship assistance (+$10 million). Support for these purposes is authorized under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act on a mandatory and open-ended basis (meaning the federal government is committed to paying a part of the cost of providing this aid to every eligible child). (Figure 2 shows the changing composition of the Title IV-E caseload, a primary factor behind the estimated lower foster care costs and increased adoption and guardianship spending.) At the same time, the President’s budget calls for additional Title IV-E foster care funds to provide financial incentives to improve the child welfare system (+$250 million) and to ensure that child support payments collected on behalf of children in foster care are used in their best interests (+$2 million). The FY2013 budget also proposes to reinstate mandatory funding to continue a nationally representative and longitudinal survey of children who come into contact with the child welfare system, which is known as the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW) (+$6 million). Additionally, the Administration proposes to fund competitive grants to reduce pregnancy among foster youth by “repurposing” mandatory funds previously appropriated for abstinence education (under Section 510 of the Social Security Act). Based on the amount of pre-appropriated dollars that have gone unclaimed by states in past years, the Administration estimates funding of approximately $13 million for the grants.

On the discretionary side of the budget, the Administration seeks an increase of funds for research to support new competitive grants related to preventing and addressing commercial sexual exploitation of children (+$5 million). At the same time, it would eliminate funding for three child welfare programs administered by the Department of Justice and included in the Victims of Child Abuse Act (Children’s Advocacy Centers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and Child Abuse Training for Judicial Personnel and Practitioners) (-$24 million).

Most child welfare programs are administered by the Children’s Bureau, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Child welfare programs authorized under the Victims of Child Abuse Act are administered by the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice (DOJ). This report discusses the purposes for which federal child welfare funds are provided, reviews the President’s FY2013 budget request for child welfare and compares it to final FY2012 funding, and reviews FY2012 appropriations and sketches the possible effect of the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) on child welfare programs. Finally, Table 1 briefly describes each federal child welfare program and shows its recent and proposed funding levels.

Date of Report:
April 10, 2012
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.