In Focus: Financing Reform

Feb 13, 2011  |  PERMALINK »

A Vision for Children in America That Everyone Should Get Behind

Recently, the Washington Post reported a moving and important story of homeless families seeking assistance. These families, in search of housing assistance, are being turned away because there are no beds. They are also being warned that they may be reported to Child and Family Services for possible investigation of child maltreatment if they don't find a safe place to spend the night.  Those quoted in the story, from the Director of Human Services to local legal service providers to housing advocates, all agree this is not the best way to keep children safe.

In fact, the best way to help most children is to help their families, not remove them from those families - even when those families are struggling.  This is why CLASP's approach is about developing and advocating for policies and practices, within and outside child welfare agencies, which support children and their families.  If we develop adequate supports and services for families to access when needed, the necessity for more intrusive interventions like foster care will become rare.  

Historically, the nation's approach to child welfare has been about "rescuing" children from "evil" parents who physically or sexually abuse them.  While it's critical that we protect children from abuse, the "removal or do nothing" approach is too simplistic.  Nearly 70 percent of maltreatment is neglect.  Helping parents meet their children's basic needs; helping them resolve substance abuse and mental health issues, often arising from their own trauma; helping them find safety from domestic violence - these are all interventions that allow most parents to care for their childrenand avoid the trauma of separating children from everyone and everything they know and love.

Also critically important, research increasingly shows such proactive approaches are not only more effective but less costly than years of foster care.  Investing in services that support families is not only the right thing to do for children, it is also the fiscally responsible thing to do.   

Yet, the nation's child welfare system is designed to remove children from their families, not provide a broad spectrum of family supporting interventions at scale.  We must flip this approach on its head.  We need to align federal child welfare financing mechanisms so they keep children safely in their homes, address children and families' needs when foster care is necessary so that children can quickly and safely return home, and find and support alternative families for children when they cannot return to their families of origin. 

To bring about this change, CLASP is working with nearly 40 other national organizations to build consensus for child welfare financing reforms that support alternatives to foster care whenever such interventions can safely keep children with their families.  It may take some time to get a financing structure in place that supports this vision, but there's progress being made.


Sep 3, 2010  |  PERMALINK »

It's Time to Realign Child Welfare Financing Structure to Support the Outcomes We Want for Children and Families

by Rutledge Q. Hutson

On July 29th the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing on how child welfare waiver demonstration projects can be used to promote child well-being. Rutledge Q. Hutson testified at that hearing arguing that reauthorizing child welfare waiver authority is insufficient to alter the outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system. Instead, Ms. Hutson argued that we need comprehensive financing reform - reform that will both infuse new resources into and redirect resources within the child welfare system to provide needed services and supports that keep children out of foster care whenever safely possible. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman McDermott and Ranking Member Linder expressed interest in what comprehensive financing reform would entail and requested all witnesses to provide supplemental testimony outlining their ideas for such reform. The following are excerpts from Ms. Hutson's supplemental testimony.

The vast majority of federal support for child welfare is available only after harm has occurred and children are removed from their families. The single largest federal child welfare source of funding generally cannot be used to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring nor to intervene when it is still possible to keep a child safely at home.

While Fostering Connections took many critical steps towards improving outcomes for children who enter foster care, it did relatively little to try to prevent children from needing to enter foster care in the first place. There was broad recognition that the more difficult challenge of realigning the financing structures to prevent abuse and neglect and avoid foster care when possible remained.

CLASP believes there are three broad components of comprehensive financing reform:

  • Expanding Title IV-E funds to support the full continuum of services needed by children who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect.
  • Increasing support to enhance the child welfare workforce.
  • Increasing accountability - both fiscal accountability and accountability for the outcomes children and families experience.


Jul 29, 2010  |  PERMALINK »

Children and Families Need More than Child Welfare Waivers \xe2\x80" Comprehensive Financing Reform is Necessary

Below are excerpts from Rutledge Q. Hutson 's July 29 testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcomittee on Income Security and Family Support. The subcomittee hearing focused on the use of child welfare waiver demonstration projects to promote child well-being.

The current child welfare system lacks the capacity to address the needs of children who are abused or neglected, and the vast majority of federal resources to address these needs are available only after a child is removed from his or her home.

For the last decade, between 750,000 to 1 million children have been found to be abused or neglected each year. Data also indicate that nearly 40 percent of the children for whom allegations of abuse or neglect are substantiated get no additional services.

Most of the staff I've known over the years, from the directors and commissioners to the front line workers, have been dedicated and caring and given their all to help children and families.  Yet, it is as if they are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.  The financing structures that currently exist simply do not provide states, localities or workers with the tools they need to address the challenges children and families face.

In the current economic environment, even the most creative of child welfare leaders cannot find the funds to piece together supports that will keep children safely in their homes.  They are facing budget cuts to a range of services that help low-income families-services that can be used to help keep children safely with their families

To turn around the outcomes for children and families, to ensure that fewer children are abused or neglected, and to ensure those who are abused or neglected receive the supports and services they need to heal, the nation must give state and local child welfare agencies the tools needed to do the job.   




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