The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) submits the following testimony on behalf of public and private child-serving agencies nationwide. We urge the Appropriations Committee to restore funding for the Prompting Safe and Stable Families program to no less than $100 million in discretionary funding, the amount provided in FY 2003. This level of funding is still well below the $200 million level authorized and previously committed to by the Administration.
We request that the Committee fund the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants at $84 million for strengthening states’ child protection systems and the CAPTA Title II community-based prevention grants funding at $80 million.
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 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.
Of the 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 $10 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 of their 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. While there was a $40 million increase in mandatory funding as part of the 2006 PSSF reauthorization, this funding was earmarked for other services by the authorizers.
We ask the Subcommittee to once again reject the Administration’s proposal to cut the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) by 30 percent or $500 million. We appreciate the fact that members of Congress have rejected this in the last two budgets.
Background On the Need For Funding
Child Protective Services
In 2005, an estimated 3.3 million children were reported as abused or neglected. Approximately 899,000 children were substantiated as abused or neglected. More than sixty-two percent of child victims were victims of neglect, sixteen percent were physically abused and more than nine percent were sexually abused. Thirty percent of victims were age 3 or younger. In 2005, 1,371 children died from child abuse. Of the children who have been substantiated as abused or neglected, nearly 40 percent do not receive follow up services. 1
The first goal of any CPS response is keeping children safe from child abuse and neglect. The CPS response begins with the assessment of reports of child abuse and neglect. If the child is at risk or has been abused or neglected, CPS should ensure the child and his or her family receive services and supports from the agency and the community.
CWLA believes the best ways to ensure children are safe from all forms of maltreatment are comprehensive, community-based approaches to protecting children, and supporting and strengthening families. Public and private agencies, in collaboration with citizens and community entities, can prevent and remedy child maltreatment, achieve safety, and promote child and family well-being.
CPS systems in the fifty states are funded by a variety of sources. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) serves as a major source of funding with forty-one states spending $257 million in SSBG funds in 2005 for child protection. SSBG is once again threatened with a potential reduction of $500 million in the President’s proposed FY 2009 budget, a reduction that would be devastating to CPS and many child welfare services. CPS systems also draw from the CAPTA, despite funding under the grants part of that program being limited to $27 million, which is well below the full authorized level.
CPS is one part of the child welfare system. If the efforts at reunification of a family fail, or the adoption fails, or services are not available to families and children who come into contact with the system, these very same children may enter the system again. Children with a history of maltreatment are more likely to experience a recurrence of maltreatment than those who were not prior victims. 2
An optimal child welfare system encompasses a continuum of services ranging from prevention of abuse and neglect to permanency and stability for children who experience foster care. Key parts of this system are a family-centered approach, a stable and highly professional workforce, the availability of targeted services to prevent child abuse and neglect, maintaining families when maltreatment has occurred and child safety can be assured, and achieving permanency and stability for children who experience foster care.
Family Centered Approach
Research in child maltreatment, juvenile justice, children’s mental health, and parent education supports the effectiveness of interventions that involve the entire family over those targeting the individual parent or child. 3 A family-centered approach engages families in addressing problems that affect the care of their children. Such engagement has been linked positively to compliance with and completion of case plans. 4
Prevention of Abuse and Neglect
Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness or promise of several approaches to prevention of child maltreatment. Models such as some of the home visiting programs have produced evidence that they positively impact a variety of outcomes for children and families, including prevention of abuse and neglect. High quality pre-kindergarten programs like the Chicago Child Parent Centers and Head Start that include parental involvement and supports have also demonstrated effectiveness. 5 Independent studies have found that the financial savings achieved by the most effective of these approaches far exceeds their costs. 6 Rigorous cost-benefit analyses conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy showed cost savings for several pre-kindergarten and home visitation programs as well as for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, a center-based intervention that provides direct coaching to parents as they interact with their young children. 7 Family-based therapeutic models such as Functional Family Therapy and Multi-Systemic Therapy have been tested in sites across the country and there is substantial evidence of their benefits to youths and their families. 8
Many children can be safely maintained in their families through the timely application of interventions that correctly target the underlying causes of maltreatment. Studies support the benefits of interventions that have a behavioral, skill-building focus and that address family functioning in multiple domains including home, school, and community. Cognitive behavioral models have been demonstrated to reduce physical punishment and parental aggression in less time than alternative approaches. 9 The most effective treatment involves all members of the family and addresses not only parenting skills, but also parent-child interaction and a range of parental life competencies such as communication, problem solving, and anger control. Attention to immediate, concrete needs has also been identified as a key factor in supporting family engagement and positive outcomes. 10
Aftercare and Transitional Services
Data indicate that about 25 percent of all children who exit out-of-home care will return at some point, often within one year. The likelihood of re-entry is especially great when children or parents have numerous or complex needs or when they are exposed to extreme environmental stressors. 11 Although the level of maltreatment recurrence and/or subsequent re-entry into foster care is undoubtedly related to decision-making and services offered prior to reunification, it strongly suggests a need for aftercare services.
Research in family reunification aftercare, indicates that it is most successful when it is initially intensive and includes the availability of concrete services 12 and ongoing assessment of risk. The association of social isolation with failed reunification also suggests the importance of linking with extended family, extra-familial social networks, and informal resources. Tapering off of services should be based on the family’s needs rather than on an arbitrary time frame. 13
Services during and after the adoption process are also an important part of the service continuum. Although the rate of adoption dissolution is quite low overall, research indicates that some placements may have greater needs for follow-up services and supports. Most families adopting through a public agency used some type of counseling. As in other types of child welfare intervention, family-focused approaches appear to be the most helpful in supporting adoption stability. Research suggests that adoptive parents may also value participation in support groups, access to literature and seminars, and concrete services like respite care, subsidies, and health benefits. 14
Promoting Safe and Stable Families
The Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF) supports four services that address four types of families in need: those in need of basic support services to strengthen the family and keep them whole, families being reunified, families we are trying to preserve, and adoptive families in need of support.
In funding this program we urge appropriators to focus on these families to understand the value of these four services:
Family Support Services (FSS) were developed to respond to the concerns, interests, and needs of families within a community. Family Support Services are targeted to families with difficulties and concerns related to the proper functioning of the family and care of the children. The focus of the program is on prevention. Services address the need to improve the well-being of a child, family functioning, and the parent’s ability to provide for the family, before they are in crisis. Family support programs work with outside community organizations such as schools and child welfare agencies. The aim is to provide temporary relief to families and to teach them how to better nurture their children. Services include parent education, child care relief, and self-help groups.
Reunification is the first permanency option states consider for children entering care. Yet, in many ways, it is the most challenging option to achieve in a plan-based, permanent way. We know that fifty-one percent, or 262,706, of children in care on September 30, 2005 had a case plan goal of reunification with their parents or other principal caretaker. At the same time fifty-four percent, or 151,770, of those children who left care in 2005, were returned to their parent’s or caretaker’s home. 15
Successful permanency through reunification requires many things, including skilled workers, readily available supportive and treatment resources, clear expectations and service plans, and excellent collaboration across involved agencies. Reunification also requires culturally appropriate support and treatment services for families and the critical need for after care or post-permanency services to ensure that safety and permanency are maintained following reunification.
Family Preservation Services (FPS) are comprehensive, short-term, intensive services for families. These services are delivered primarily in the home and designed to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children. The services are intended to protect a child in a home where allegations of child abuse or neglect have occurred, prevent subsequent abuse or neglect, prevent placement of a child, or reduce the stay for a child in out-of-home care. Families in need of family preservation services are usually referred by public welfare agencies. Services are provided within 24 hours of referral and the family’s involvement is voluntary. These services respond to families on a 24-hour basis, including services such as family therapy, budgeting, nutrition, and parenting skills.
Adoption support is an important need as the number of adoptions has increased. There is still more work to be done. Services may include information and referral, case management services, support groups and a range of other services. Of the 506,483 children in foster care in 2005, approximately 122,195 were waiting to be adopted. Of the children waiting, 36% were black non-Hispanic, 40% were white non-Hispanic, 15% were Hispanic, 2% were Native American or Alaskan Native and 3% were of undetermined ethnicity. In 2005, the median age of children waiting to be adopted was 8.4 years; 4% of the children waiting to be adopted were younger than 1 year; 33% were ages 1 to 5; 25% were ages 6 to 10; 29% were 11 to 15; and 8% were 16 to 18. 16
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children Youth and Families, Child Maltreatment 2005, Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007. back
- Ibid. back
- Bethea, L. (1999). Primary prevention of child abuse. American Family Physician, 59(6). Available online.
Kumpfer, K. (April 1999). Strengthening America’s families: Exemplary parenting and family strategies for delinquency prevention. University of Utah. OJJDP. U.S. Department of Justice. Available online. back
- Dore, M. M. & Alexander, L. B. (1996). Preserving families at risk of abuse and neglect: The role of the helping alliance. Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, 20(4), 350-364. back
- Alexander, R., Baca, L., Fox, J., Frantz, M. & Huffman, L., et al. (2003). New hope for preventing child abuse and neglect: Proven solutions to save lives and prevent future crime. Washington, DC: Fight Crime, Invest in Kids. Available online. back
- Ibid. back
- Aos, S., Lieb, R., Mayfield, J., Miller, M., Pernucci, A. (2004). Benefits and costs of prevention and early intervention programs for youth. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Available online. back
- Ibid. back
- Corcoran, J. (2000). Family interventions with child physical abuse and neglect: A critical review. Children and Youth Services Review, 22, 563-591. back
- Ibid. back
- Wulczyn, F. (2004). Family Reunification. The Future of Children, 14(1), 95-113. back
- Maluccio, A. (2000). What works in family reunification. In M. Kluger, G. Alexander, & P.A. Curtis, What Works in Child Welfare (pp. 163-171). Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America. back
- Terling, T. (1999). The efficacy of family reunification practices: Reentry rates and correlates of reentry for abused and neglected children reunited with their families. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23(12), 1359-1370. back
- Barth, R., & Miller, J. (2000). Building effective post-adoption services: What is the empirical foundation? Family Relations, 49, 447-455. back
- Nollan, K.A.(2000). What works in independent living preparation for youth in out-of-home care. In M.P. Kluger, G. Alexander & P.A. Curtis (Eds.) What works in child welfare (195-204). Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America. back
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Administration for Children and Families (2007) Financial Overview, FY2005 and FY2006.Retrieved online, October 12, 2007. Washington, DC: Author. back