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Friday, January 18, 2013

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 (primarily 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. Congress did not enact final appropriations for FY2013 before the start of that federal fiscal year on October 1, 2012. However, like most federal programs, the child welfare programs discussed in this report are currently funded under a continuing resolution (P.L. 112-175), which remains in effect through March 27, 2013. For programs that receive mandatory funding, the temporary measure ensures funding is available at the level authorized in current law. For each of the child welfare programs that receive discretionary funding, the temporary funding measure generally provides support at the same level that each program received in FY2012, plus 0.612%. Most of the child welfare funding discussed in this report is provided on a mandatory basis; however, most child welfare programs receive smaller funding amounts provided on a discretionary basis. (Table 1 shows FY2012 funding levels for each child welfare program. Table 2 lists child welfare programs by their kind of funding, i.e. mandatory or discretionary.)

While the 112
th Congress did not complete action on legislation to provide a full year of FY2013 funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation (S. 3295 and S. 2323) that would have provided $7.924 billion for the child welfare programs discussed in this report for FY2013. That would have provided foster care funding at the level requested by the President to meet current law funding needs but did not provide for additional funding sought by the President (under the Title IV-E foster care program) to provide financial incentives to improve the child welfare system. Implementation of that proposal requires congressional authorization (separate from appropriations) and no legislation to grant this authority is pending. During the 112th Congress, the House Appropriations committee did not act on full year FY2013 appropriations legislation for most of the child welfare programs discussed in this report.

Apart from the lack of full-year appropriations laws, final FY2013 funding levels for federal child welfare programs remain uncertain because of spending cuts (sequestration) authorized under the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). Since the final passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (H.R. 8), also known as the “fiscal cliff bill,” these cuts are scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013. Federal law exempts the mandatory funding provided under the Title IV-E program from any of these automatic cuts. Title IV-E authorizes the majority of federal child welfare spending, including funds for foster care, adoption assistance, kinship guardianship assistance, and services to youth transitioning from foster care (under the basic Chafee Foster Care Independence program). However, all other federal child welfare programs—including all funds providing for child and family services under Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, and without regard to whether they receive mandatory or discretionary funding—would be subject to sequestration. (Table 2 indicates which child welfare programs would be subject to the automatic spending cuts under the sequestration set to be implemented on March 1.)

Date of Report: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL34121
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