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Home > Advocacy > Archives > CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda


CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda

Social Services Block Grant (Title XX)

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  • Support efforts to restore funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG, Title XX of the Social Security Act) to $2.8 billion. Funding has been cut severely in recent years, jeopardizing these vital services to vulnerable children, youth, and families.


SSBG is a major source of federal funding to address the needs of vulnerable children and youth. Nationally SSBG represented 17% of federal funding for child welfare services in state fiscal year 2000. 1 SSBG frequently serves as a link between government funding and private and charitable sources. SSBG funds supplement local and charitable efforts by providing federal dollars to fill a gap that local efforts cannot meet.
In 1981, SSBG was converted from a matching entitlement fund to a capped federal block grant to states. States were free to decide whom to serve and what services to provide. As a capped entitlement, SSBG funding was intended to bypass the annual appropriations process and be automatically provided at the level set in the statute--$2.4 billion. Congress, however, has set funding for SSBG below the authorized capped level for the past several years. Funding for SSBG was lowered to $1.9 billion in FY 1999 and to $1.7 billion in FYs 2002 and 2003.

Although states can use SSBG funds for an array of social services, such as child care or services for the aging, states spend these funds on child welfare services more than any other service area. In federal FY 2001, child protection and child foster care services each accounted for 22% of SSBG expenditures. Forty-three states used SSBG funds to address child protection services; 35 used SSBG to fund foster care.

In 2003, Congress considered several proposals to increase SSBG funding. The Senate adopted the CARE Act (S. 476), which, in addition to changing tax law to encourage charitable giving, restored funding of SSBG to $2.8 billion in FY 2004 and restored states' ability to transfer 10% of their TANF block grant into SSBG. The House version of the CARE Act (H.R. 7) does not include SSBG funding. The differences between the House and Senate versions of the CARE Act will be resolved in 2004. SSBG funding may also be included as part of the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or as a freestanding bill. Efforts to restore SSBG funding may also include proposals that would both increase SSBG while creating a new set-aside for tribal governments.

Key Facts

States can use SSBG to fund 29 different services to prevent or remedy neglect or abuse of children or adults, achieve or maintain economic self-support, reduce unnecessary institutionalization, achieve or maintain independence, and secure referral and screening for appropriate institutional care. In FY 2001, more than $790 million in SSBG funds were spent on services to children and youth, including adoption, foster care, child protection, independent living, and residential services.

  • In 2001, 28 states used $35 million in SSBG funds to assist in the adoption of children. 2

  • Of the 542,000 children in foster care on September 30, 2001, 116,653 had a goal of adoption; 46,668 children were adopted from foster care in 2001. 3

  • Adoption services are designed to facilitate timely placements of children with adoptive families. Services include counseling for birthparents, recruitment of adoptive homes, and pre- and postplacement training and counseling.
Foster Care
  • In 2001, 35 states used nearly $270 million in SSBG funds for foster care services to more than 287,000 children. That year, 542,000 children were in out-of-home care. 4

  • States use SSBG to pay foster care costs for the board and care of children not eligible for federal Title IV-E foster care assistance. Foster care services are designed to secure living arrangements for children or youth who have been abused and neglected and cannot live at home. These children and youth may live with foster care families, including relatives; in group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, or preadoptive homes; or in supervised independent-living arrangements. Services include needs assessments, case planning, case management, medical care, child counseling, parent or foster parent counseling, and recruitment of foster families.
Child Protection
  • In FY 2001, 43 states used more than $313 million in SSBG funds to protect children from abuse and neglect. In 2001, state and local child protective service agencies received an estimated 3,085,693 reports of child abuse and neglect. 5

  • Child protective services are designed to prevent or remedy abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children who may have experienced physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, and negligent treatment or maltreatment. Services include investigation, medical care, emergency shelter, case planning, child counseling, family counseling, legal assistance, and placement in foster care.
Independent Living
  • In FY 2001, 14 states used $3 million in SSBG funds to provide independent and transitional living services to more than 7,000 youth and 21,000 adults. Supervised independent and post - foster care services for youth are designed to help older youth in foster care or homeless youth make the transition to independence. Services include educational assistance, employment training, training in daily life skills, and housing assistance. 6
Residential Treatment
  • In FY 2001, $105 million in SSBG funds supported residential treatment to more than 49,000 youth and 28,000 adults in 22 states. Residential treatment services provide short-term residential care and comprehensive treatment for children who cannot be cared for at home or in foster care and who need specialized services. Services include psychological evaluations, alcohol and drug treatment, family counseling, individual counseling, remedial education, vocational training, case management, and supervised recreation. 7
Special Services for Youth at Risk
  • In FY 2001, 19 states used $62 million in SSBG funds to help more than 75,000 youth at risk. Support for youth at risk is often fragmented between the juvenile justice, mental health, and child welfare systems. SSBG allows states to cut across different systems and provide youth the help they need. Services are targeted at youth who are, or who may become, involved with the juvenile justice system, and their families. Designed to enhance family functioning and increase positive youth development, services include counseling, residential services, and medical care. 8


  1. Bess, R.; Andrews, C.; Jantz, A.; Russell, V.; & Geen, R. (2002). The cost of protecting vulnerable children III: What factors affect states' fiscal decisions? (Assessing the New Federalism Occasional Paper 61.) Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from NewFederalism/ Publications/PublicationsbyTopic/Income/ChildWelfare/Child.htm. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
  2. Administration for Children and Families (ACF). (2003). SSBG 2001: Annual report on expenditures and recipients, 2001. Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from reports.htm. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Children's Bureau. (March 2003). The AFCARS Report #8: Preliminary Estimates published March 2003. Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from Washington, DC: HHS.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid; Children's Bureau. (2003). Child maltreatment 2001: Reports from the states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from Washington, DC: HHS.
  5. ACF, SSBG 2001.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

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John Sciamanna

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