Trends in Federal Spending on Youth and Families: Complete Analysis

Washington, D.C.-based youth advocacy organization First Focus released its annual “Children’s Budget” today, a document that groups federal grants and programs into several silos of youth-related funding.

This year’s Children’s Budget captures the effect of two significant developments: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which bolstered many services for families and children in the immediate wake of the recession; and the Sequestration, which forced sizable cuts to many domestic spending programs in fiscal 2013.

For most of the silos identified by First Focus, five-year increases are tempered with significant declines in a shorter time span. For the first since it began compiling the Children’s Budget, First Focus announced, the overall spending related to youth has declined for three consecutive years.

“Three consecutive years of cuts to investments in children sends a clear message that Congress is not prioritizing our kids and their families,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley, in a statement released with the budget today.

As the document shows, President Barack Obama’s proposals for 2014 would bring increases for most of these broader categories. But Congress has only recently begun to work on spending bills for 2014.

Below is an analysis of Children’s Budget 2013. You can click here to read the entire document.

Income support

Federal Programs Included:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Child Support Enforcement & Family Support Programs
  • Dependency & Indemnity Compensation
  • Disability Compensation
  • Disability Insurance Trust Fund
  • Old-Age & Survivors Insurance Trust Fund
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Survivors’ Pension Benefits

5-year change: +1.1 percent
2013: $63.5 billion
2012: $60.2 billion

Notes: The biggest reductions are in TANF (has dropped 9.7 percent in five years) and “child support enforcement & family support payments” (has dropped 14.7 percent in five years).

Not only has TANF not been increased since 1996, it hasn’t even been inflation-adjusted since. According to the CBPP page on TANF, cash assistance benefits are now at least 20 percent below their 1996 levels in 37 states (after adjusting for inflation).

Child Support Enforcement (CSE) serves one out of four kids in the country. The Congressional Research Service has found that 30 percent of kids currently receiving this support would fall into poverty if not for these funds.


Federal Programs Included:

  • Juvenile Justice Programs
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Mentoring (Education Department)
  • Missing Children (Justice Department)
  • Missing and Exploited (Secret Service/Homeland)
  • National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
  • Poison Control
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Underage Drinking Act Programs
  • Education for Incarcerated Youth Offenders
  • Unaccompanied Alien Children
  • Violence in Schools Prevention
  • Youth Farm Safety

5-year change: -22.7 percent
2012: $830 million
2013: $910 million

Notes: The main point of the First Focus budget is to give the broader view of how a bundle of youth-related spending, under the same general theme, changed. But it is also a good indicator within those themes of what the priorities are.

For instance: Within the “Safety” budget, we learn that the federal government spends about as much on juvenile justice as it does to improve the ability of children to walk or bike to school.

Juvenile Justice Programs, a Justice Department funding stream that supplies most of the juvenile-related dollars spent by the feds, has dropped from $304 million in 2009 to $189 million in 2013. It is now nearly equal to the “Safe Routes to School” program, which was allocated $174 million in 2013 after receiving $183 million in the four years previous.

The juvenile justice funding mostly goes to state juvenile agencies and courts, and to larger organizations focused on preventing delinquency through mentoring or organized out-of-school activities. Safe Routes to School seems mostly to fund construction and design projects at or around schools.

Whereas it is rational to assume that there are millions of new youth to prevent from committing crimes or to hold accountable for crimes, one might reasonably ask why there would be a constant need to improve the walk to school for children.


Federal Programs Included:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Women, Infants and Children
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
  • Commodity Assistance Program
  • Commodity Procurement
  • Coordinated Review
  • Food Safety Education
  • Fresh fruit & Vegetable Program
  • Hunger-Free Community Grants
  • School Breakfast Expansion Grants
  • School Breakfast Program
  • School Lunch Program
  • School Meal Equipment Grants
  • Special Milk Program
  • TEAM Nutrition

5-year Change: +24.7 percent
2013: $64.3 billion
2012: $62.2 billion

Notes: If enacted, the President’s 2014 budget would actually decrease spending on child nutrition by 4.6 percent, in real terms, over fiscal 2013 funding levels. This drop is a result of significantly lower expected outlays in SNAP, which based on projections would drop by nearly 10 percent after adjusting for inflation.

WIC, the School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program would all see substantial increases. The President’s requests calls for an additional $25 million increase over 2013 levels for School Meal Equipment Grants, meant to help schools implement new healthy school meal standards and expand the School Breakfast Program.


Federal Programs Included:

  • Tenant-Based Rental Assistance
  • Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Public housing
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants
  • The Homeless Emergency Assistance
  • Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act
  • Emergency Solutions Grant
  • Consolidated Homeless and Runaway Youth Program
  • Emergency Shelter Grants Program
  • Supportive Housing Program
  • Section 8 Moderate
  • Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program
  • Shelter Plus Care Program
  • National Housing Trust Fund
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Street Outreach Program
  • Rental Assistance Programs

Five-year Change: -4.9 percent
2013: $10.6 billion
2012: $11 billion

Notes: Children’s housing is the one policy category that contains almost no exclusively child-oriented programs. Most “children’s” housing programs are initiatives that deliver housing services to adults as well.

ARRA included close to $520 million in funding for children’s housing programs through increases to one program, Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, but all ARRA funding was spent in 2009 and 2010.

A 20 percent funding increase in the president’s budget over the last year would bolster services for homeless children, as about half of the Homeless Assistance Grant funding goes to children, and there is no doubt that the sequester has led to fewer children receiving homelessness assistance.

There were sizable sequestration cuts within the 2013 HUD appropriations, particularly to the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program and Project-Based Rental Assistance Program in 2013. Sequester cuts could have been worse if not for an increase in the 2013 Continuing Resolution prior to the implementation of the cuts.

Training Programs

Federal Programs Included:

  • Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
  • Job Corps
  • Young Parents Employment
  • YouthBuild

5-year Change: -17.3 percent2013: $1.7 billion
2012: $1.8 billion

Notes: Youth employment and job training remains a small part of the federal budget. Annual spending on youth training makes up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal non-defense budget. Of this small slice of federal funding, funding in this area continues its downward trend.

The Youth Training Programs section of WIA is one of the largest pots of money targeted exclusively at youths and young adults, and the appropriation for it has plummeted since 2009 from $924.1 million to $781.4 million. WIA is supposed to be reauthorized every five years, but that has not happened once since its passage in 1998.

Child Welfare

Federal Programs Included:

  • Foster Care Payments to States
  • Promoting Safe and Stable Families
  • Abandoned Infants Assistance
  • Adoption Assistance
  • Adoptions Incentives
  • Adoption Opportunities
  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment

Five-year Change: -11.6 percent
2013: $8.9 billion
2012: $8.6 billion

Notes: While many youth-related categories saw five-year increases the belied more recent cuts, child welfare spending identified by First Focus saw a long-term decline but an uptick from 2012 to 2013. The decrease in funding over the last five years is due to the lack of mandatory outlays. Funding for this year has increased as well as the number of mandatory outlays such as kinship care, foster care, and adoption assistance.


Federal Programs Included:

Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies, and all other programs funded by the Department of Education.

5-year Change: +14.7 percent
2013: $37.4 billion
2012: $43.2 billion

Notes: Education spending fell by nearly $6 billion in 2013, and the bulk of that decline came in the form of a $1 billion decrease in Title I grants, which are the “carrot and stick” of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Title I funding, and the amount of influence the Department of Education has over it, is at the heart of the partisan debate in Congress over how to rewrite ESEA. Republicans would like to see the money distributed to states with few strings attached, and Democrats would like to see greater accountability, particularly in regard to low-performing schools.

There were also decreases in some funding streams aimed at seriously disadvantaged youths in 2013, including:

  • Education for Homeless Children and Youth, which dropped from $65.2 million to $61.8 million.
  • A drop from $839.9 million down to $796 million for the TRIO program, which assists low-income, first generation college students.
  • The Neglected and Delinquent Program ($47.6 million, down from $50.2 million), which according to First Focus funds “educational continuity for children and youth in state-run institutions as well as in adult correctional institutions.”

Early Childhood

Federal Programs Included:

  • Head Start
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School
  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visiting Program

5-year funding change: +6.1 percent
2013: $13.9 billion
2012: $14 billion

Notes: During President Obama’s last State of the Union Address, the president supported the creation of a universal preschool program that would eventually provide access to preschool for all 4 year olds in the country. To that end, he proposed two new programs for 2014 – “Preschool for All” and “Preschool Development Grants” – at a total of $2 billion in funding in 2014 alone and $75 billion over 10 years.

It seems unlikely that the program will end up in the final appropriations for 2014. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, has voiced criticism over the performance of federally funded programs for young children.

“The federal government has a poor track record of managing early childhood education initiatives, with mounting evidence that Head Start may not be helping students as much as we had hoped,” he told ABC News for a story in about the preschool proposal.

Health Programs

Federal Programs Included:

  • Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Community Health Centers
  • National Asthma Control Program
  • Abstinence Education
  • Adolescent Family Life Program
  • Autism and Other Developmental Disorders Initiative
  • Birth Defects
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Disability and Health
  • Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
  • Children, Youth, Women, and Families
  • Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program
  • Children’s Mental Health Services
  • Compassion Capital Fund
  • Coordinated School Health Programs
  • Emergency Medical Services for Children
  • Healthy Homes Program
  • Health Start Initiative
  • Healthy Transitions
  • Maternal and Child Health Block Grant
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative
  • National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund
  • National Children’s Study
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • Office  of Children’s Health Protection
  • Personal Responsibility Education Program
  • Project AWARE
  • Safe Motherhood and Infant Health Program
  • School-Based Health Centers
  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants
  • Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Program
  • Vaccines for Children
  • Workforce Expansion for Mental Health

5-year Change: +7.3%
2013: $71 billion
2012: $67.6 billion

Notes: The 2013 budget included a decrease of $100 million in discretionary funding for Community Health Centers, which serve a large portion of the poor, uninsured population. Such a change could impact organizations like the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, which provides multidisciplinary pediatric care to address root causes of poor outcomes for children and families in high-risk communities.

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