Trump Budget 2021: Family First Enhancements, Block Grants, Unaccompanied Minors

President Trump released his 2021 budget this month, and Youth Services Insider has finally had time to break this one down. It includes a mix of sizable cuts to programs that serve disadvantaged youths and young adults, and a few intriguing legislative proposals.

You can CLICK HERE to access our full chart with spending proposals on dozens of child welfare, juvenile justice, education and workforce programs. Here are a few of the things that jumped out to YSI.

Family First Act Tangents

The Trump budget makes two proposals, priced at $1.7 billion over ten years, that would require Congressional regarding the Family First Prevention Services Act.

The first, YSI covered earlier this week. Federal law generally prohibits Medicaid money for services delivered in an “institution of mental disease,” commonly referred to as IMDs. Family First created a new category of congregate care called a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP), which currently is interpreted to be an IMD.

The administration would grant an exception to that rule for any QRTP, meaning Medicaid dollars could come their way to pay for the services rendered. Click here for a rundown on the proposal, and click here for an even deeper dive into the weird relationship between Medicaid and congregate care in general.

Second, the administration wants to quickly expand the list of allowable services that can be paid for to prevent the use of foster care in some child welfare cases. The Family First Act opened the Title IV-E child welfare entitlement up for such services, but only those cleared as being “evidence-based” by a newly established clearinghouse.

But so far, only 11 services have been approved (10 by the clearinghouse, one temporarily by the U.S. Children’s Bureau). The budget proposes to immediately waive onto the approved list any service that has been cleared by two different clearinghouses: the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse, which includes a wide array of child welfare-related models, and the federal Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness Project, which rates programs aimed at pairing new or expecting parents with professional or volunteer help.

The California clearinghouse currently lists 225 different programs that at least rise to the rank of “Promising,” which is the low-end threshold for the Family First clearinghouse. Only a fraction of those will apply to Family First, though, which is limited only to substance abuse, mental health and parenting models. Were Congress to agree with this but adopt a narrower waiver, there are 84 programs that are either “Supported” or “Well-Supported” by the California clearinghouse.

The home visiting evidence registry include 21 different models that have been cleared for funding under a different federal program: the $400 million-per-year Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting, or MIECHV.

Capped IV-E

The administration continues to throw out the idea of offering states a capped allocation of IV-E dollars that would enable child welfare agencies maximum flexibility in their use of the money. The leadership at the Children’s Bureau has quietly pushed this behind the scenes as a way to go beyond the limits of Family First and use federal money for more upstream efforts to prevent abuse and neglect. Click here for more details on how that plan, which Florida’s legislature recently endorsed, would work.

Another Immigration Surge?

Last year, the administration asked for about $1.3 billion for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program, which funds shelter and care for youth who arrive from Central America without a parent or guardian. It is a politically fraught program at the moment, and the appropriation for it has exploded since the early 2010s when it sat around $267 million in 2013.

The 2021 budget proposes just south of $2 billion, a $680 million increase. The program was referred nearly 70,000 minors in fiscal 2019, up from 49,000 in 2018 and 10,000 more than any year in the program’s history. The 2020 number isn’t out yet, but the administration must expect that the numbers aren’t going to go down.

It seems logical that, with the mounting deterrence campaign at the border to keep families from seeking asylum together, more parents are sending kids alone.

Cutting Whole Programs

As in previous years, Trump has proposed the elimination of several block grants and other large funding streams for youth and families. Among them: the Social Services Block Grant ($1.7 billion), Community Services Block Grant ($740 million), and Preschool Development Grants ($250 million).

Trump would also eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, an agency that got its start in legislation during the George H.W. Bush administration and then built up under Bill Clinton. The agency’s signature program, AmeriCorps, offers service-learning opportunities to young people and a pipeline of low-cost employees to thousands of nonprofit community providers around the country.

Cuts By Creating Block Grants

The administration is proposing two changes at the Department of Education that would consolidate existing federal programs into block grants. This essentially zeroes out an actual appropriation for those individual programs, makes them one choice on a menu for states, but with less overall money.

Trump would create a TRIO Block Grant of $950 million that includes TRIO and GEAR UP, two programs aimed at helping low-income youth get into and prepare for college. Those two programs were funded by Congress in 2020 at just over $1.4 billion.

The administration would also establish the “Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant,” which would roll up 29 different programs and disburse the funds out of a $19.4 billion account. Among the programs included:  21stCentury Learning ($1.2 billion in 2020), Migrant Youth ($374 million), Runaway and Homeless Youth ($101.5 million), and Neglected and Delinquent Youth ($47.6 million).

Apprenticeship Hike

The administration, and Congress, continue to nudge up the amount of federal dollars going to apprenticeships, intense training programs in lucrative trades like construction or plumbing. Trump asked for $160 million in 2020, and Congress approved $175 million. This year he is asking for $200 million.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1211 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at