2006 Legislative Hot Topics
Financing Child Welfare Services
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Strengthen the federal government's partnership with states in sharing responsibility for abused and neglected children.
- Pass legislation that improves outcomes for abused and neglected children by addressing the shortcomings in the current federal funding structure. Improvements include: new resources for an array of services; enhanced and coordinated Medicaid services; updated eligibility criteria for federal foster care and adoption assistance; federal support for children in guardianship placements and Native American children; and new supports for the child welfare workforce.
- Oppose the President's proposal that would cap, or block grant, Title IV-E federal foster care assistance and lock in current inequities among states and seriously erode federal support for children in crisis.
CWLA's Call for Reform
The child welfare system, with its thousands of dedicated workers and hundreds of child-serving agencies in every state and community, provides the direct, one-on-one care needed to protect children from abuse and neglect. Yet, the system is struggling to do the impossible without the necessary tools and supports to carry out their vital work. CWLA believes substantial changes are needed at the federal, state, and local levels to get many more children the help they need.
The current federal funding structure fails to adequately support the best outcomes for children and families. In recent years, state and federal policymakers have held discussions and hearings to review the federal and state supports in place to provide services to abused and neglected children, their families, and children who are at risk of abuse and neglect. Broad agreement exists about the problems with the current federal funding structure and the challenges facing children and families and the child welfare system. Differences continue, however, about the best ways to make improvements and whether additional funds are needed.
Maintaining the status quo is not sufficient. CWLA strongly urges Congress to pass legislation that improves outcomes for children and families by addressing the shortcomings in current federal funding patterns. Improvements are essential if states are to be held accountable for meeting the federal goals of safety, permanence, and well-being for all children in the child welfare system. These are the goals Congress mandated, but without appropriate federal support, few states will be able to meet these demands. The goals will not be realized without increased federal funding for specific activities, accompanied by provisions to ensure investments to improve outcomes for children.
Seeking Improvements in 2006
Recent government actions to "bring federal spending under control" have threatened CWLA's vision for children, and continue to divert federal support away from meeting their needs. Early in 2006, Congress chose to cut nearly $600 million from federal foster care assistance. 1 These choices, unfortunately, fail to make children a priority and further threaten the safety and protection of many.
CWLA offers the following guidelines for improvements:
- To support CWLA's vision for the well-being of children, CWLA offers policy recommendations, based on and supported by research 2, that outline specific legislative changes needed to make progress toward reaching our goals for children and families. These policy recommendations ensure that states have increased flexibility, investment, and accountability to improve child welfare services.
Additional information and materials about CWLA's call for reform, and a review of existing child welfare financing resources and legislative proposals, are available on CWLA's website at www.cwla.org/advocacy/financing.htm.
- Supply the new resources necessary to provide a flexible array of services to prevent child abuse and neglect; support children who are in foster care and those children who are either reunited with their families from foster care, or who transition out of foster care into independent living; and support families who adopt children from the foster care system.
- Preserve and better coordinate access by the child welfare system to necessary Medicaid, rehabilitative, and case management services so that children who are harmed have the chance to heal.
- Strengthen, redefine, and preserve access to Title IV-E administrative funds used for activities related to advancing the well-being of children in the child welfare system.
- Maintain the basic federal safety net of Title IV-E entitlement funding for foster care and adoption assistance for children who need this help. Updating the current Title IV-E financial eligibility standard, currently linked to 1996 standards from the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, will result in greater numbers of children becoming eligible for federal foster care and adoption assistance, and stop the erosion of federal government support for fewer children in foster care.
- Extend federal Title IV-E funding to support children in guardianship placements.
- Implement a series of changes that will recognize the need to strengthen and build on the child welfare workforce. The foundation of our nation's ability to care for abused and neglected children is a well-trained, well-equipped child welfare workforce.
- Extend access to federal Title IV-E and Title IV-B funds to tribal governments and nations.
- For a complete summary of the child welfare provisions of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, visit http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/fostercare060201.htm. back
- To access CWLA's Optimal Child Welfare Service Delivery plan, including the supporting, research-based documentation, please visit http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/financing.htm. back
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