Dollars and Priorities: The Financing of Child Welfare

The Chronicle of Social Change will spend 2016 investigating how the federal government pays for child welfare, and the emerging momentum behind changing it.

Currently, child welfare advocates, powerful charitable foundations and members of Congress are expressing urgency about reforming how the federal government supports state child welfare systems.

The most notable example of this is the pending introduction of The Families First Act. The bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate Finance Committee by Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The bill would tinker with the Title IV-E entitlement of the Social Security Act to reduce reliance on group homes and other congregate care facilities in favor of services directed to families and children in crisis before they enter the traditional foster care system.

This is just the latest in a long string of proposals to reform how child welfare is financed, and whether or not it becomes a reality will not change that fact that there is increasing momentum behind a re-envisioning of the federal government’s priorities when it comes to child welfare.

Over the course of 2016, The Chronicle of Social Change will devote consistent attention to how we pay for foster care.

Through a series of analyses, short stories and features, we plan to tackle the biggest issues driving the current finance reform debate.

Our hope is to spark a conversation about where current proposals hit the mark, describe the areas where certain objectives could compromise child safety and wellbeing and, in the end, help find consensus about what is best.

We plan on focusing on a number of issues, including:

Title IV-E Waivers: Title IV-E is proscriptive. Since 1994, Congress has authorized waivers wherein states and county-level child welfare jurisdictions can take a capped amount of money and are allowed to spend that money more flexibly.

What is the state of waivers across the country? Has budget neutrality and flexibility been good for children?

Block Grants: As the Waiver program has illustrated, many jurisdictions have been willing to forgo the open faucet type funding associated with entitlements for more flexibility.

Should the Title IV-E federal entitlement be block granted? What has block granting meant for other entitlements?

The De-Link: Currently, federal re-imbursements to state foster care systems are tied to the 1996 poverty standard that was used for the now defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, more commonly known as “welfare.” As time has passed, fewer and fewer children are eligible for federal IV-E payments because their parents made more than the antiquated poverty standard when their children were removed.

Uncoupling Title IV-E from the 1996 poverty standard would bring in as much as $2 billion to the child welfare system. Why has this not been the focus of the advocacy community?

The Scope of Child Maltreatment: Data from the University of Southern California’s Children’s Data Network is using linked data at the population level to show how prevalent child abuse is.

To what degree is this important new data entering the debate? Is the financing package being considered anywhere near adequate to meet the actual child maltreatment threat?

Prevention: Child welfare categorizes many programs as prevention, even if they are deployed after a child has been reported for abuse.

How good is the system at preventing future abuse of children who are already known to the system?

The End of Group Homes: The Families First Act on the federal level and Assembly Bill 403 in California create savings for earlier intervention by time-limiting group homes and other congregate care facilities.

How solid is the strategy to cut funding to congregate care? Where will the highest needs kids go?

Today, we kick off our coverage with two analyses on the effectiveness of the Title IV-E Waiver program. Our guest writers are: Sean Hughes, managing partner of a consultancy firm called Social Change Partners, and Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

To read Hughes’ piece, “The Great Waiver Myth,” click HERE.

To read Wexler’s piece, “Do Waivers Work? Compared to What?,” click HERE.

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Daniel Heimpel, Publisher, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Daniel Heimpel, Publisher, The Chronicle of Social Change 181 Articles
Daniel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at

1 Comment

  1. Kudos on addressing a relevant reform issue. DHHS funding has created the genocide of American families. If you want to know how the system is functioning, and where change is needed, ask the effected. The stories are abundant and horrific. The system is broken for families. For the ‘states’ everything is going according to plan.

    They remove your children and adopt them out get bonus, changing the social security #, then keep collecting on the old one. declare child developmentally disabled with a bogus diagnosis, and it doubles.
    They incentivize Family Court to grant sole custody to one parent, in pursuit of the Federal Funds through DHHS Access/visitation program.
    If you are an ex prisoner, or a victim of DV, just give the court your ex’s social, and you get sole custody. DHHS matches child support dollars 66%-300%.

    I call this family division.

    Harmful funding. Discriminatory application. Shattered families. Filling the prisons and rehabs. Producing more children for CPS to traffic.

    The $ is the problem. We must demand congressional intervention. Also the misogynistic relationship between PD/DHHS/DA/AG causes State omnipotence. Especially contending with desperate, low opportunity families.

    The nation is being destroyed by DHHS…one family at a time.

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