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Home > Advocacy > CWLA Testimony and Comments > Federal Budget

 
 

Letter to Senate and House Appropriators to Restore Discretionary Funding Under the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF)

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March 11, 2008

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on
Labor- HHS-Education
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member, Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable David Obey
Chairman, Subcommittee on
Labor- HHS-Education
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable James Walsh
Ranking Member, Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Harkin and Senator Specter:
Dear Chairman Obey and Congressman Walsh:

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), on behalf ofpublic and private child-serving agencies nationwide, urges the Appropriations Committee to restore funding for the Prompting Safe and Stable Families program to no less than $100 million in discretionary funding provided in FY 2003. This level of funding is still well below the $200 million level authorized and previously promised by the Administration.

PSSF targets four types of families touched by the child welfare system: families in need of adoption services, families in crisis and need of support, families where a child has been placed in foster care and the best interest of the child is to be re-unified, and families that are very close to being split up and states are attempting to preserve these families through intensive services. Many argue that as a nation, we are only willing to spend on families and children in the child welfare system once a child has been removed and then only if they meet stringent eligibility requirements through the limited Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance programs. They further argue that we should invest more to prevent abuse. CWLA agrees. This, however, takes a genuine commitment to funding these prevention services in a meaningful way.

An analysis of thirteen discretionary programs that are targeted to address child welfare services, including the promotion of adoption and services to prevent child removal, shows that of the total 2007 discretionary funding of $629 million, a total of $24 million was cut in 2008, a reduction of nearly four percent.

Ofthe thirteen programs, eleven were cut: Child Welfare Services, Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), Mentoring for Children of Prisoners, Child Welfare Training, Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) State Grants, CAPTA Community Based Grants, Adoption Awareness, Adoption Opportunities, Adoption Incentives, Abandoned Infants, and Education and Training Vouchers for youth leaving care. There was a slight increase of $1.4 million in CAPTA Discretionary grants and a new administration earmark of $1 0 million was created for home visiting programs. The home visiting program is funded through CAPTA.

The PSSF program received the biggest funding cut. For FY 2008 PSSF was cut drastically, with discretionary funding reduced from the 2007 level of $89 million to $63 million. As we indicated states are required to spend at least twenty percent oftheir funds on each of four services, families in need of adoption services, families in need of reunification services, families being targeted for intense preservation services, and serviceS targeted to support families. Some examples of state efforts include the state of Pennsylvania in state fiscal year 2006-07 serving 10,880 families and 13,156 children per month in their Family Center programs. These Centers provide family preservation services such as home visitation which emphasizes the importance ofparental relationships and discussing discipline principles at home. The Centers also provide family support services. The primary focus is the PA Family Support Alliance. Local support groups help to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect and improve family functioning. Family preservation services are also provided through family group decision making. Families are empowered to make the best decisions for their circumstances to ensure the safety of their children. In addition time limited family reunification services were provided to over 500 families in 2008 through the Family Centers.

In 2006 the state of Iowa family reunification services funding was distributed through all eight Department ofHuman Service areas. The focus in these efforts is on providing Family Team Meetings (FTM). FTM have been used to reduce the incidence ofre-abuse, re-entry into care, and to increase the face to face visits between children and parents before reunification. Each area is required to develop service area goals and objectives and then these results are reported back to the PSSF director. In addition to these kinds ofreunification services, Iowa has used funding for adoption services that assist families. Through Family Support, Iowa has worked with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa to provide support services all across the state.

In 2005 over 33,000 Wisconsin children and 31,000 families received support services provided through PSSF through one ofthe four services funded. In their official state reports, Wisconsin tells us that when reports that compare actual outcomes with the desired outcomes for the children and families served, counties are meeting or exceeding their outcomes goals. Wisconsin also tells us that maintaining PSSF funding is extremely important in order for the state to continue providing fundamental support and improvements to statewide child welfare practice. This funding stream is integral to ensuring that program services improve outcomes for all children and families in Wisconsin; especially for those that are in the child welfare system or at high risk of entering the system.

In the California county of Santa Clara, as one example of that states efforts, the $1.1 million in PSSF funding was used to provide family advocates, expansion ofthat county's differential response approach to child abuse and neglect reports, more parent advocates, support for inter- jurisdictional adoptions, greater adoption infonnation and more parent training for adoptive families.

While these limited examples of some state efforts give a picture how families are assisted by PSSF funds it can't describe how these same states and similar families will be affected by budget cuts. This challenge only grows as state budget deficits start to increase. Since 2005 when PSSF was still receiving close to $100 million in discretionary funding all these states have absorbed a cut in PSSF funding of close to 7 percent.

CWLA looks forward to working with the members of the Committee and the Congress to increase the critically important federal commitment and resources for these vital services that protect children from abuse and neglect.

Sincerely,

Christine James-Brown
President/CEO
Child Welfare League of America

CC: Members of Senate and House Appropriations Committees


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