2004 Legislative Priorities
In this election year, the future direction of our country hangs in the balance. CWLA's top priority for 2004 is to forge a new course that ensures the health, safety, and well-being of America's children, particularly children who are victims of abuse and neglect. If we are sincere in our belief that our children are our future, then we encourage our leaders to invest in programs that protect children from being abused and neglected and provide children with essential services such as health care, child care, housing, and education.
To move forward with a new vision and course of action that ensures the safety and well-being of all children, especially those that come to the attention of the child welfare system, the Child Welfare League of America urges Congress to take action to ensure that states and community-based agencies have the tools and resources in place to ensure that our children are protected.
- Preserve and expand the federal guarantee of Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance as an open-ended entitlement for children who have been abused and neglected and those at risk of abuse and neglect.
- Support comprehensive reform of the child welfare system to ensure that states and child-serving community-based agencies have the flexibility AND new federal financial investments to implement needed improvements and expand services.
- Oppose the Administration's proposal to cap or block grant the Title IV-E Foster Care program because it does not represent a valid national reform effort nor does it offer the significant changes and investments needed nationwide to improve the child welfare system and to ensure that all children are protected.
- Preserve and Expand the Federal Guarantee of Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance as an Open-Ended Entitlement
- The Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program provides 48% of all federal funding available for child welfare services. As an entitlement program, the federal government automatically provides funding to states based on the number of eligible children served. Funding for all other major federal programs that support child welfare (except Medicaid) are not entitlements. Funding for these programs, such as the Social Services Block Grant and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program need to be approved each year by Congress. In recent years, funding for these programs has been reduced or held constant-while funding for Title IV-E has increased each year because it is based on the number of children in need. Faced with a mounting federal deficit, Congress will have difficulty increasing funding for non-entitlement programs in the future.
- Changes are needed in the Title IV-E program to ensure increased federal commitment and guaranteed resources. Currently, the federal government supports only about 50% of all children in foster care nationwide.
Comprehensive Reform of the Child Welfare System Needed
A comprehensive federal plan has never been established to ensure that states and communities have all the tools and resources in place to protect our nation's children. Title IV-E is the single largest source of federal funding for child welfare, providing support for out-of-home care and adoption and a safety net for eligible children who have been abused and neglected or are at risk of abuse and neglect and need out-of-home care. However, no comparable guaranteed federal funding exists to support other services and outcomes for children.
What now exists at the federal level is an incomplete federal financing system that is in urgent need of reform. The federal government has recently established new mechanisms for review and oversight of state child welfare systems, yet has not provided the resources needed to help states meet the expectations set forth in the reviews: safety, permanency, and well-being for all children.
True child welfare reform hinges on an improved system of shared financing responsibilities among federal, state, local, and tribal governments.
Key elements of comprehensive child welfare reform include:
- Expand guaranteed federal financial support of child welfare services for a broad array of services beyond out-of-home care, including prevention, child protective services, in-home supports, treatment foster care, residential treatment, reunification, postpermanency, and postadoption services.
- Ensure that all abused and neglected children are eligible for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.
- Eliminate the current Title IV-E financial eligibility requirements linked to outdated 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children standards. Currently, the federal government provides support for only about 50% of all children in out-of-home care.
- Extend direct access to federal funds for tribes caring and protecting Native American children who are victims of abuse and neglect.
- Provide needed new funding resources to help states implement strategies to improve their child welfare systems. The most recent evidence from the federal Child and Family Service Reviews and Program Improvement Plans document that states and communities need additional federal support to make the improvements required to meet the needs of children and families.
- Provide incentives to states to increase and support a well-trained workforce prepared to deliver quality services and achieve successful outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system. Provide student loan forgiveness for those who become child welfare workers.
- Extend the federal training support (75% matching rate under Title IV-E) that is now available to train public agency child welfare workers to also train workers in approved private child welfare agencies that employ direct care workers, case managers, and others in delivering a broad array of child welfare services.
- Make available a federally-funded kinship/guardianship permanency option to allow states to provide assistance payments to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of the children for whom they have committed to care for on a permanent basis.
- Increase funding for other major federal programs supporting child welfare services, including the Social Services Block Grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. These programs represent 37% of all federal funding directly to states for child welfare.
Oppose Child Welfare Block Grant Option
For more information, visit our website or contact Liz Meitner, CWLA Vice President of Government Affairs, at 202/942-0257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The President's FY 2005 budget request proposes to give all states an option to receive a fixed, predetermined allocation, or block grant, of Title IV-E Foster Care maintenance payments, administrative costs, and training funds in exchange for giving up the guaranteed federal funding now provided for each eligible child in foster care.
- The proposal is cost neutral, setting a five-year cap on spending and freezing federal resources for child welfare services at a time when there is great need for significant new investments and reform of our national child welfare system.
- By capping the federal level of support, the proposal abandons the federal government's commitment to funding services for abused and neglected children based on the number of eligible children. Instead, the proposal eliminates the entitlement and sets a fixed amount of funds for foster care that is no longer driven by the number of eligible children, but by federal budget restrictions. Faced with a mounting federal deficit, Congress would have difficulty in increasing the cap anytime in the near future.
- The Administration describes their proposal as a way to allow states flexibility in their use of Title IV-E foster care funds. These funds had been primarily dedicated to supporting out-of-home care. Since the Administration's proposal does not offer any new resources, states would only be able to use the funds for other services such as prevention, if a state dramatically reduced their foster care caseload. Since most states are experiencing increases in foster care caseloads, it is unlikely that providing less funding, coupled with more flexibility for existing funds, would give states the resources they need to protect children.
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