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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda > Financing Child Welfare Services


CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda

Financing Child Welfare Services

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  • Enact a comprehensive legislative package of reforms of the child welfare system.

  • If a comprehensive package cannot be enacted this year, a number of other important bills represent key steps toward reform.
    • Enactment of kinship care legislation, S. 661 and H.R. 2188.

    • Extending access to Title IV-E funding to tribal governments, S. 1956 and H.R. 4688.

    • Extending Title IV-E funding to age 21, S. 1512.

    • Legislation to address the outdated eligibility requirements, S. 1462 and H.R. 4091.

    • Extending Medicaid coverage to age 21 for youth that age out of care, H.R. 1376.

    • Provide short-term training of staff of certain private child welfare agencies, H.R. 2314.

The Partnership to Protect Children and Strengthen Families

During spring 2007, seven organizations, including CWLA, came together to issue a statement that outlined a proposal for comprehensive reform of the nation's child welfare system. 1 More than 40 national, state, and local groups now support the proposal.
Changes Needed in Federal Child Welfare Law to Better Protect Children and Ensure Them Nurturing Families
Organizations representing public human services directors, public child welfare directors, private child and family service agencies, unions representing child welfare workers, and advocates for children, have come together in partnership to call on the 110th Congress to join them in a renewed commitment to protect the nation's children. The partnership will work for a system that better protects all children by:
  • supporting the full range of services necessary to prevent child abuse and neglect;

  • ensuring all children who have been abused and neglected, including those in foster care, have the services and supports they need to heal; and

  • guaranteeing the more than half million children in foster care the help they need not just to survive, but to thrive and return to their families, or to live permanently with adoptive families or legal guardians (often grandparents or other relatives).
We cannot afford to waste the potential of another child. It is time for Congress to update outmoded financing strategies so the federal government can better help states prevent child abuse and neglect, protect and care for many more abused and neglected children, support a high quality child welfare workforce, and do more to increase accountability for outcomes for our most vulnerable children and their families. This year marks a decade since Congress passed major bipartisan child welfare reforms. Although progress has been made in those 10 years, much more remains to be done. It is time to build on gains made and lessons learned and for Congress to act now.

Innovations are underway in selected states and communities, but the federal-state partnership to help children and families in need must be renewed and strengthened if we are going to ensure progress for all children. Despite the efforts of creative leaders and dedicated staff, too many children today remain in harm's way. A child is abused and neglected in America every 36 seconds. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that only 6 of every 10 abused and neglected children get services. Those children who enter foster care remain an average of nearly two and a half years. An estimated 114,000 children wait in foster care for adoptive or other permanent families. Eroding federal supports reach fewer than half of the children in foster care. Federal dollars for services to keep children out of care, and to get them out and keep them out once they are placed, fall far short of the need. The average tenure of a child welfare agency worker, who is often called upon to make life and death decisions for children, is less than two years.

It will take all of us working with others across the country to keep children safe and in nurturing families. We will need to invest additional funds and to support a broad range of services and supports, including prevention, treatment, and post-permanency services. On behalf of America's children, we ask Congress to act now to do its part. This partnership of diverse organizations recommends a comprehensive package of reforms that will:

Guarantee services, supports, and safe homes for every child who has been or is at-risk of being abused or neglected through strengthening the federal-state child welfare partnership by amending the federal Title IV-E statute to do the following without converting any of the Title IV-E to a block grant.

Promote investments in a broad continuum of services for children and families by allowing states that offer services and supports that safely reduce their foster care caseloads and expenditures to retain the Title IV-E federal funds they would have otherwise used for foster care. They can reinvest those funds in a range of services and supports that prevent child abuse and neglect, provided that state dollars no longer needed for foster care are similarly invested.

Ensure federal as well as state financial support for all children when they must be placed in foster care by eliminating the income eligibility criteria applicable to Title IV-E, provided that state funds currently used for foster care are reinvested in prevention and treatment services for children who are at-risk of being or have been abused or neglected. Guarantee children have access to critical postpermanency services by amending Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to allow funds to be used to provide such services and supports. These services will prevent the return to foster care of children who are reunited with their parents, placed permanently with relatives, or adopted from care. They will also help older youth who age out of foster care successfully transition to adulthood.

Guarantee children placed permanently with legal guardians (often grandparents or other relatives) receive federal as well as state financial support by amending Title IV-E to allow funds to be used for subsidized guardianships when returning home or adoption are not appropriate options.

Ensure that children living with relatives while in foster care have access to Title IV-E federal and state financial support, so long as the relatives have met state licensing standards that contain safety protections and criminal background checks.

Ensure Native American children have access to federal support by allowing Indian tribes to have direct access to Title IV-E funding.

Promote Program Effectiveness
Improve outcomes for children by enhancing and sustaining a competent, skilled, and professional child welfare workforce by allowing Title IV-E training funds to be used for training on all topics relevant to ensuring safety, permanency, and well-being for children and for training to all staff who work with children who come to the attention of the child welfare system, including staff with private agencies, as well as public agencies, court personnel, and those with expertise in health, mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence services.

Ensure that all children involved with the child welfare system receive intensive, quality casework services by increasing the Title IV-E federal match for casework services from 50% to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), and thus increasing the capacity of child welfare agencies to address the needs of children and families. Assessments of children's and families' needs, and development and refinement of permanency plans, recruitment, licensing, and supervision of foster and pre-adoptive parents are at the heart of child welfare casework and these activities should be reimbursed as more than simple administrative expenditures. General overhead and purely administrative expenditures would continue to be reimbursed at a 50% match.

Promote rigorous evaluation of programs and practices and prevent the loss of critical child welfare funding by allowing states to reinvest penalties and disallowances back into the child welfare system to conduct evaluations of promising approaches to achieving safety, permanence, and well-being for children and to implement practices and approaches that have been demonstrated to improve these outcomes.

Enhance Accountability
Enhance fiscal accountability by requiring states to report annually on the funds spent on particular services and categories of services, the number of children and families provided each service, the duration of those services, and the number of children and families referred for services who are unable to access such services.

Evaluate the effectiveness of this package of reforms five years after enactment by directing the Government Accountability Office conduct a study of: (1) enhancements of preventive, permanency, and postpermanency services; (2) changes in foster care placements; (3) recruitment, retention, and workloads of child welfare workers; and (4) improved outcomes for children who are at-risk of entering or have entered the child welfare system.

Increase the knowledge about outcomes for children by allowing states to submit additional state level data during the Child and Family Service Review process.

Important Bills that Represent Key Steps Toward Reform

CWLA believes that if a comprehensive reform cannot be completed by the end of 2008, there are a number of bills now before Congress that can be enacted and would be important steps on the road to a comprehensive reform.
Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S. 661 and H.R. 2188)
This bipartisan legislation creates first-time federal support for children living with relatives in guardianship placements. The bills provide support for both relative and non-relative guardianship placements. The bills would also establish a Kinship Navigator Program, and ensure notice to relatives when children enter foster care.
Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Access Act of 2007 (S. 1956)
This bipartisan legislation allows tribal governments to apply directly to HHS for Title IV-E funding for eligible children in foster care and adoptive homes. A tribal government applying to draw down funds directly would have to meet most of the same requirements and standards that states do. Similar to current state requirements, a tribe would have to submit a plan indicating its area of service, which may not coincide with such geographic lines as city, county, or state borders.
Foster Care Continuing Opportunities Act (S. 1512)
This bipartisan legislation would extend federal foster care funding (Title IV-E) to youth up to age 21. Currently, federal funding supports foster youth to age 18. A few states extend this to age 21 with state dollars only. Every year, more than 22,000 children age-out or leave foster care merely due to turning age 18.
The Adoption Equality Act (S. 1462) and (H.R. 4091)
This bipartisan legislation would ensure all special needs children adopted from foster care receive federal support in order for the newly created family to have a good foundation for the future. It would eliminate the eligibility requirement for Title IV-E special needs adoption that now bases eligibility on the long-repealed AFDC cash assistance program.
Medicaid Foster Care Coverage Act of 2007 (H.R. 1376)
This bipartisan legislation addresses a critical issue for young people leaving foster care-lack of health insurance. For some youth leaving foster care at age 18, their Medicaid and health coverage end at the same time. While some states have taken the option to extend Medicaid coverage to age 21, this legislation would extend Medicaid to age 21 for all youth who age out of foster care.
Provide Short Term Training of Staff of Certain Private Child Welfare Agencies
This bill addresses an important issue that has been on the CWLA agenda for several years. Given the need to strengthen the child welfare workforce as a building block for any reform of the child welfare system, the legislation allows private child welfare agencies contracted by the state to use federal funding for on-going training.

Key Facts

  • In 2005, an estimated $3.3 million referrals of possible child abuse and neglect were made.2

  • In 2005, 899,000 children were substantiated or indicated as abused or neglected. 3

  • In 2005, 1,460 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. 4

  • Of the children substantiated as abused and neglected, only 60.4% received follow-up services. Of the children reported as abused and neglected but not substantiated, 26.9% received follow-up services. One-fifth of victims (21.7%) were placed in foster care as a result of an investigation. 5

  • As of September 30, 2005, 506,483 children were in foster care. 6

  • Of the 286,005 children exiting foster care in 2005, 64.1% were reunited with their parents or other family members. 7

  • Of the 506,483 children in foster care in 2005, 122,195, or 24.1%, were waiting to be adopted. 8

  • In 2005, 51,278 children were legally adopted through the public child welfare agency, a 1.4% decrease from 51,993 in 2004. 9

  • In 2006, approximately 2.4 million grandparents nationwide had primary responsibility caring for their grandchildren. 10

  • Of the 506,483 children in foster care in 2005, 23.9% were living with relatives while in care. 11

  • Of all the children in kinship care in 2005, 36.9% were white, 35.5% were black, 18.8% were Hispanic, 2.2% were Native American, and 6.5% were all other races. 12

  • In 2004, 935,225 children were enrolled in Medicaid on the basis of being in foster care, representing approximately 3.4% of all children enrolled in Medicaid. 13

  • In 2004, $350 million of the total Medicaid spending for foster children was spent on Targeted Case Management (TCM) services and $545 million on Rehabilitative Services in the United States, representing approximately 18% of total Medicaid spending. 14

  • Children in foster care receiving TCM are much more likely to receive other important services such as physician, prescription drug, dental, and home health services than children in foster care who do not receive TCM services. 15

  • In 2005, 24,211 children aged-out of out-of-home care. 16

  • In 2004, the country spent $23.3 billion for child welfare services. Child welfare services refer to all direct and administrative services that the state agency provides to children and families. Of this, 50% was from federal funds, 39% from state funds, and 11% from local funds. 17

  • In 2004, of the $11.7 billion in federal dollars spent for child welfare, 50% was for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance, 4% for Title IV-B CWS and PSSF, 10% for Medicaid, 11% for Social Services Block Grant, 20% for TANF, and 3% for other federal sources, including Supplemental Security Income and Survivors Benefits. 18


  1. In addition to CWLA, the original group comprising the Partnership to Protect Children and Strengthen Families included: the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSME), the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), Catholic Charities USA, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), and Voices for America's Children. back
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. (2007). Child maltreatment 2005. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  3. Ibid. back
  4. Ibid. back
  5. Ibid. back
  6. Child Welfare League of America. (2007). Special tabulation of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS). Arlington, VA: Author. back
  7. Ibid. back
  8. Ibid. back
  9. Ibid. back
  10. U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 American Community Survey. (2006) Data profiles: Selected social characteristics. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  11. CWLA, Special tabulation of the AFCARSback
  12. Ibid. back
  13. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2007) FFY 2004 Medicaid Statistical Information System (MSIS) annual summary file. Available online. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. back
  14. Ibid. back
  15. Geen, R., Sommers, A.S., & Cohen, M. (2005) Medicaid spending on foster children. Available online. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. back
  16. CWLA, Special tabulation of the AFCARSback
  17. Scarcella, C.A., Bess, R., Zielewski, E.H., & Geen, R. (2004). The cost of protecting vulnerable children V: Understanding state variation in child welfare financing. Available online. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. back
  18. Ibid. back

CWLA Contact

John Sciamanna

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