The federal budget resources social programs in three main ways: annually approved funds called appropriations, mandatory funds that are reauthorized for longer stretches at a time or indefinitely, and tax credits made available through income tax filings.

Annually appropriated federal programs must be consistently supported to ensure adequate funding every year. CWLA’s, Children and Families’ Federal Budget Chart tracks children’s welfare in the federal budget with the latest budget proposals and enactments from Congress and the President in key funding streams.

Mandatory funds don’t get debated as often, but strong advocacy is still need to strengthen these programs when they are reauthorized or need to be modified. Mandatory funds can be open-ended or capped entitlements to the state or qualified individuals.

Child welfare funding falls into all of these categories. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, covering the foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship guardianship entitlements, is one of the largest child welfare funding sources, and the most direct, and strongest child welfare policy, so it receives special attention in an attempt to ensure it is best serving our most vulnerable children and their families.

The federal government also provides social support for families directly through the budget via tax credits. Tax credits are intended to incentivize certain activities; for example, work. Falling under the tax code, monetary benefits are received as deductions and/or credits on recipients’ annual income tax.