The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), representing public and private nonprofit, child-serving member agencies across the country, is pleased to submit testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education this morning. As you consider the FY 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill we ask for a special priority to address funding in specific program areas that we believe can assist in improving child well-being. Such an effort can help to strengthen vulnerable children, youth, and families and prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes and separation from their families.
The President’s budget for FY 2008 projects that a balanced federal budget will be reached within five years. That assumption is based in part on a FY 2008 budget that holds domestic spending in check outside of the Department of Defense (including funding for the war in Iraq) and the Department of Homeland Security. The Administration also anticipates a renewal of the entire President’s past tax cuts throughout the next five years.
Outside of Defense, the war, and Homeland Security, spending is increased by one percent for other non-entitlement programs. At the same time, this budget includes Defense expenditures of more than $481 billion, an additional $100 billion for the war for this fiscal year (FY 2007) and an additional $145 billion for the war for FY 2008, making the total spending request for defense and the war nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars. In context, the entire budget for the federal government, including Social Security and the Defense budget twenty-five years ago-(1982) totaled just over the amount requested for Defense and the war in this budget. Meanwhile, the Administration once again calls for the optional child welfare block grant of Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funding and a half billion dollar cut in the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)-reducing that funding from $1.7 to $1.2 billion. Such proposals are opposed by CWLA.
There are a great many programs in this subcommittee’s jurisdiction and under the direction of the Administration for Children and Families. We want to highlight a few key areas that deserve special attention this year.
Child Welfare Prevention and Intervention Services
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is one of our foundational statutes dedicated to supporting states in the prevention, identification, reporting and intervention of child abuse and neglect. Unfortunately the basic state grants provide only $27 million spread across the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Six states receive $100,000 or less and our largest state in the union receives $2 million for a child population of over nine million. CAPTA discretionary grants for research are currently funded at $42 million. The law authorizes these two programs at $200 million. We ask that these two programs now funded at just under $70 million be fully funded at $200 million with the vast majority of those dollars targeted to the basic state grants.
Similarly we request $80 million for community-based child abuse and neglect prevention grants. This community-based program currently is funded at $42 million with the Administration requesting the same level of funding. This increase in funds will support a variety of community based prevention services including home visitation, respite services, and parenting education.
Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF)
Title IV-B – Subpart 2 Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) provides funding for four core services. This funding is used for state programs that assist in family reunification, family support, adoption support, and family preservation. The law allows Congress to appropriate $200 million a year above the mandatory funding of $305 million for a possible total of $505 million. However, the program has never been appropriated at this level. Therefore, CWLA supports the inclusion of $200 million in discretionary funding for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. This will provide $505 million or full funding for the aforementioned core services. Last year Congress approved an additional $40 million in mandatory funds as a result of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). These funds have been designated to be used for two new initiatives on substance abuse and workforce issues.
Child Welfare Services (CWS)
Title IV-B – Subpart 1 Child Welfare Services (CWS) represents one of the oldest sources of funds for prevention and intervention services. These funds are primarily used to provide supportive and preventive services such as counseling and parent education; to secure foster and adoptive homes; and to reunify children with their families whenever possible. Last year Congress enacted new changes to the law to better target funds to prevention and intervention. CWLA looks forward to identifying the results of such targeting. In addition, the new law requires annual reports on how these funds are invested by states into child welfare services. After several years of across-the-board reductions, we ask that this program, now funded at $287, be fully funded at its authorization level of $325 million.
Tribal Children’s Mental Health Program
Accessible and ample mental/behavioral health services are imperative for any community to thrive. This is especially imperative in American Indian and Alaskan American (AI/AN) communities were such services are sparse. To reduce the dearth of such resources in AI/AN communities, the Circle of Care grant program was created to build an infrastructure to increase the capacity and effectiveness of behavioral health systems, reduce the gap between the need for behavioral health services and the availability of services, and involve stakeholders, leaders and community members in formulating methods to reduce stigma, improve relationships between provider groups, address the limited service availability and increase cultural competence in the overall system. Historically, SAMHSA has funded this vital program at approximately $3.4 million each year. Nevertheless, the President’s budget proposal for FY 2008 seeks to eliminate funding. CWLA opposes the President’s proposal to eliminate funding for this program. Eliminating the Circle of Care program contributes to an already daunting mental health disparity in AI/AN communities.
Social Services Block Grant (Title XX)
Although the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is a source of mandatory funds for a range of human services, the Administration proposes to reduce funding by $500 million. SSBG is a flexible source of funds that allows states to provide an array of services. Since 2000, funding for SSBG has been maintained at $1.7 billion. Last year, Congress, acting through the appropriations committees, rejected an identical proposal. In last year’s proposal the Administration had promoted this as a one-year reduction. This time, in contrast, the President proposes to reduce the SSBG total to $1.2 billion for FY 2008 and beyond.
SSBG represents 12% of all federal funding states receive from the federal government to provide child abuse prevention, child protection, foster care, adoption, independent and transitional living, and residential services for children and youth.
States can use SSBG to fund 29 different services to prevent or remedy neglect or abuse of children or adults, achieve or maintain economic self-support, reduce unnecessary institutionalization, achieve or maintain independence, and secure referral and screening for appropriate institutional care.
- In FY 2004, the latest data available for SSBG, states spent over $660 million in SSBG funds on services to children and youth, including child protection, foster care, adoption, independent living, and residential services:
- 38 states used more than $194 million in SSBG funds to protect children from abuse and neglect. In 2004, state and local child protective service agencies received an estimated 3 million reports of child abuse and neglect.
- 37 states used nearly $332 million in SSBG funds for foster care services to more than 542,038 children. That year, 509,000 children were in foster care on September 30.
- 29 states used $29 million in SSBG funds to assist in the adoption of children.
- 17 states used $8 million in SSBG funds to provide independent and transitional living services to more than 18,000 youth.
- 23 states used $83 million in SSBG funds supported residential treatment to more than 31,000 youth.
- 15 states used $13 million in SSBG funds to help more than 162,239 youth at risk.
In addition to child welfare services, SSBG funds are used to provide child care, home delivered and congregate meals for senior citizens, family planning services, services to the disabled, and domestic violence services outside of child protective services; residential treatment services; substance abuse treatment, education and training, transportation services; information and referral and a range of home-based services. Thus, SSBG funds are used to supplement a range of essential human services, including child welfare services. We re-state our opposition to the Administration’s proposal to slash funding to the SSBG by half a billion to $1.2 billion.
Early Childhood Development
Stable and supportive child care is an important part of the strategy to address child well-being. Recent changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and state budget cuts of the past five years have added to the pressure to address this growing need. The Administration has failed to request additional funding and as a result of across-the-board cuts starting in 2002, discretionary child care funding has been reduced. In the reauthorization of TANF in 2006, Congress failed to provide enough mandatory funding to enhance current child care services. The TANF reauthorization provides a small increase of four percent for a five- year period. In addition new constraints and requirements applied through the TANF block grant, work requirements will add further pressure to the nation’s child care system.
We urge you to increase discretionary child care funding by $720 million. This increase is an attempt to adjust funding for inflation and the recent reductions. Budget projections provided by the Administration indicate that over a ten year period we will have lost 450,000 child care slots. We cannot continue in this direction if we are seeking to make child care a tool to maintain child well-being, a tool for early learning, and a reliable support for working parents.
We are encouraged by the early actions on reauthorization of the Head Start program. However, reauthorizing and maintaining the strength of Head Start as a comprehensive child development and child- and family-focused program is only the start. As is the case with child care, funding has been stagnant in recent years and an infusion of new resources is needed to make up for the last several budgets. We urge the subcommittee to increase Head Start funding by $750 million. This funding level is an attempt to address the erosion in services that has taken place over a three-year period and to address recent cuts in funding.
Youth services such as the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program help states provide services to young people who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18 as well as former foster children beyond age 18. The Chafee program helps eligible children make the transition to self-sufficiency through such services as assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, and training in daily living skills. It permits states to extend Medicaid coverage to former foster children between 18 and 21 years of age, and allows up to 30 percent of program funds to be used for room and board. Chafee is a capped entitlement with an annual ceiling of $140 million, which has not been increased since 2001.
Adolescents constitute a major segment of the youngsters the child welfare system serves. Most youths enter out-of-home care as a result of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Others have run away from home or have no homes. Young people transitioning out of the foster care system are significantly affected by the instability that accompanies long periods of out-of-home placement during childhood and adolescence. These young people often find themselves truly on their own, with few if any financial resources, no place to live, and little or no support from family, friends, and community. The experiences of these youth place them at a higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration, and homelessness.
The resulting harm to the youths themselves, their communities, and society at large is unacceptably high. To reduce these harmful outcomes outreach to these youth needs to be improved as does the quality of services provided. In addition, expanding eligibility for critical support for young people leaving foster care will help ensure a successful transition to independence and self-sufficiency, and reduce the numbers of young people who become homeless, unemployed, incarcerated, and/or at high risk of becoming victims and victimizers. To accomplish this improvement and expansion, funding for the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program should be increased. CWLA supports the following increases in the Chafee program:
We urge the subcommittee to increase funding to $60 million for Independent Living Education and Training Vouchers, which is the authorized level. These funds help older youth leaving foster care get the higher education, vocational training, and other education supports they need to move to self-sufficiency.
We support the provision of $120 million for runaway and homeless youth programs (Basic Center Program, Transitional Living Program, and National Runaway Switchboard), and $20 million for the Street Outreach Program. These services provide critical assistance to youth in high-risk situations all over the country, as identified above.
We support the provision of $49 million for the Mentoring For Success program and the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program. This would be level funding and allow current programs to continue operations and provide for a modest expansion to greatly serve the needs of youth who would benefit from positive role models. Mentoring programs are proven effective interventions to help at-risk children and youth overcome challenges and achieve their potential.
As you consider the FY 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill, CWLA hopes we can count on you to increase the critically important federal commitment and resources for these vital services that protect children from abuse and neglect and provide opportunities for positive child, youth, and family development. CWLA appreciates the opportunity to offer our testimony to the Committee. CWLA encourages the Subcommittee to begin the process of re-ordering our national priorities. We hope that this country will once again seriously confront the challenge and the need to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families throughout the United States of America.