President's Budget Calls for Key Investments in our Most Vulnerable Children and Families

Feb 04, 2010

By: Rutledge Q. Hutson

Our nation's children will be safe and well cared for only when we invest in a continuum of services including: prevention and early intervention services that help prevent child abuse and neglect whenever possible; effective treatment services for children who experience maltreatment and their families; and aftercare services that support children and their families once a crisis is stabilized so that further abuse and neglect do not occur. President Obama's 2011 budget takes a number of positive steps towards supporting this continuum, but The Administration and the Congress must take additional steps to make up for years of underinvestment in critical services for our nation's most vulnerable children.

Prevention and Early Intervention Investments in the Budget:

The reasons for child maltreatment are varied and often complex. For example, some families neglect their children because they lack adequate resources to meet their basic needs while other families mistreat their children under the stress of losing a job or home. For these families, many of the provisions in the budget designed to create jobs and provide economic supports to families will help prevent maltreatment. For example, the President's proposal reverses a decade of indifference in child care and Head Start programs proposing an increase of more than $2.5 billion. Similarly, the Administration's proposal to continue the TANF Emergency Fund created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help ease the stress of the current economic situation for many families.

Substance abuse, untreated mental health issues and domestic violence are also related to child maltreatment. The President's budget calls for an increase of $11 million for the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The Administration proposes to level fund the basic substance abuse block grant and the mental health block grant, but proposes to increase funding for children's mental health services by $5 million and to increase funding for substance abuse Programs of Regional and National Significance by $55 million and to increase mental health Programs of Regional and National Significance by $13 million.

Budget Investments for Child Welfare Focused Programs:

The Administration proposes to increase Child Abuse and Treatment Act (CAPTA) funding by $10 million by creating a new competitive state grant program for evidence-based prevention practices, for a total budget line of $107. The President requests level funding of $360 million for child welfare services, (subpart 1 of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act). The budget also calls for level funding of Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) (subpart 2 of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act). This request includes $63 million in discretionary funding, $360 million in mandatory funding and an additional $20 million in mandatory funding to reauthorize the Court Improvement Program which expires this year. The Administration's budget also includes mandatory funds for foster care, kinship guardianship and adoption through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act at just over $7.2 billion. The Administration includes a proposal to continue the increased match rate for Title IV-E (enacted as part of the Recovery Act) for 6 months, but still anticipates that funding for the program will decrease due in part to more children moving out of foster care into permanent homes and in part due to increasingly fewer children being eligible for federal payments because eligibility is linked to 1996 income criteria for the no longer existing Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.

Budget Investments in Comprehensive, Holistic Approaches to Families and Communities:

The budget also includes two exciting proposals that could lead to investments in more comprehensive approaches to helping children and families who have long struggled and who have been hit hardest by the current economic crisis. First, the Administration proposes a $210 million investment in its Promise Neighborhoods initiative which seeks to strengthen distressed communities by linking school reforms, strong family supports and effective community services across neighborhoods. This approach recognizes that parents do not raise their children in a vacuum but are influenced by the communities in which they live and acknowledges that raising children is much easier when they live in neighborhoods with child care providers and schools that promote healthy development and provide quality education, with multiple pathways to family-sustaining jobs, and with enriching community spaces and places (parks, libraries, grocery stores etc.)

Second, the Administration proposes the creation of a $500 million Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund which will provide three year competitive grants to states. These grants can be used to help families who struggle with the most complex challenges to employment - challenges which also often interfere with parenting - and will be available to states who are ready to innovate and offer holistic approaches which provide a range of services such as home visiting, subsidized employment and transitional jobs, substance abuse and mental health treatment. 

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