The Safety of Children Threatened by Block Grant Plan: Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect with Real Reform
Hearing on the Bush Administration Foster Care Flexible Funding Proposal to the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the
House Committee on Ways and Means
June 11, 2003
WASHINGTON - Newspaper headlines across the country graphically report that the nation is failing to adequately protect our children from abuse and neglect. Whether it is in the Indianapolis Star's article, "Defenseless: Indiana Children Die Needlessly" (12/8/02) or the Wilmington, DE, News Journal report, "Death May Reveal Gaps in Child Protection" (10/17/02), it is clear that the current system designed to care for these children needs reform. Real reform, including new investments, is required to respond to the needs of the over 500,000 abused and neglected children currently in foster care and to keep all children safe from harm.
Congress is beginning to discuss proposals to reform the child welfare system, including the Administration's plan that caps federal foster care funding. This approach, while offering states flexibility, would result in severing the federal commitment to our most vulnerable children. It will no longer provide a direct connection between the federal government and these vulnerable children. In addition to capping federal funding, it calls for a cost-neutral approach designed to give states flexibility but without the needed resources. This proposal provides no assurance that children will be protected, threatens their automatic access to Medicaid coverage, and could mean fewer children adopted from foster care.
The Child Welfare League of America recognizes the need to improve the national system of care for abused and neglected children, and continues to urge Congress to consider the following elements of any real reform.
This is an opportunity to bring real reform into the child welfare system. Let this be a true test of our values as a country. We hear a lot about investing in our children as an investment in the future. If we, as a nation, are truly serious about this goal, we must take action now to invest and reform the programs that protect children from abuse and neglect.
- Preserve the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program as an open-ended entitlement to ensure a continued federal commitment to supporting abused and neglected children.
- Ensure that all abused and neglected children are eligible for foster care and adoption assistance by eliminating the Title IV-E current financial eligibility requirements tied to outdated 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) standards.
- Reduce the number of children entering or remaining in out-of-home care or waiting for an adoptive family, by improving the quality of caseworkers. This can be done by reducing caseloads, limiting caseworker turnover, and adopting professional standards. Establish national practice standards tied to outcomes for children. Federal, state, and local agencies must be accountable for meeting the standards and achieving the outcomes. Improve the quality of child welfare services and better serve children and families through federal loan forgiveness and training programs.
- Dedicate significant new resources to provide federal, state, and local support for the full range of services necessary to prevent child abuse and neglect, increase services to promote safety and permanence for children, and assist families struggling with problems such as substance abuse.
- Make available a federally-funded guardianship permanency option to allow states to provide assistance payments on behalf of children to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship.
Reforming the system means providing the supports necessary so that the child welfare system can do what it was originally intended to do - protect children from abuse and neglect and provide comprehensive community-based support for those who have been victimized by abuse and neglect. This can only be done with new creativity, new investments, and a renewed commitment by the federal government to work with states and local communities.
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