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Thursday, August 2, 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). (See Figure 1.) 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 (See Figure 2).

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 was $8.009 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved legislation (S. 3295 and S. 2323) that would provide $7.924 billion for them in FY2013. (House Appropriations Committee action on most FY2013 child welfare funding was still pending as of July 16, 2012.) The difference between funding proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the President’s FY2013 request is largely related to the additional funds sought under the Title IV-E foster care program 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). Implementation of those proposals requires legislative authorization (separate from appropriations) and no legislation to grant this authority is pending. The Senate Appropriations Committee (S. 3295) would provide foster care funding at the level requested by the President to meet current law funding needs.

For most programs, the President’s FY2013 budget request closely tracks child welfare funding provided by Congress for FY2012. The largest differences reflect changes in the Administration’s estimate of funds needed to reimburse eligible state claims 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). The President’s FY2013 child welfare proposals to reinstate $6 million in mandatory funding to continue a nationally representative and longitudinal survey of children who come into contact with the child welfare system and to “repurpose” an estimated $13 million in mandatory funds previously appropriated for abstinence education are not included in S. 3295 as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. On the discretionary side of the budget, the Administration seeks new research funds (+$5 million) to support competitive grants to prevent and address commercial sexual exploitation of children. S. 3295 as reported would provide this new grant funding. At the same time, the Administration would eliminate funding (-$24 million) for three programs included in the Victims of Child Abuse Act—Court Appointed Special Advocates, Children’s Advocacy Centers, and Child Abuse Training for Judges. H.R. 5326, which passed the House on May 10, 2012, would maintain a total of $24 million for these programs, and S. 2323, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 19, 2012, would provide them a total of $27 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 Department of Justice. This report reviews the President’s FY2013 budget request for child welfare, comparing it to pending and prior-year appropriations bills. Table 1 briefly describes each federal child welfare program and shows its recent and proposed funding levels.

Date of Report: July 16, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL34121
Price: $29.95

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