Children and Families Need More than Child Welfare Waivers – 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.
Effective reform turns on two things: (1) making new investments, particularly in prevention, early intervention and treatment services, and (2) redirecting existing resources to more effective interventions for children and families as the capacity to provide those interventions is created with new investments.
While CLASP has long supported child welfare demonstration projects to test new approaches to serving children and families, they are not intended to infuse new resources into the child welfare system but only to redirect the resources from one type of intervention to another. By definition, waivers to conduct demonstration projects must be cost neutral. As a result, waivers have limited capacity to expand the continuum of services, particularly to front end services and supports that will keep children from experiencing harm and from needing to come into foster care.
CLASP firmly believes we can reduce the need for foster care and improve outcomes for children and their families by investing in appropriate prevention, early intervention and treatment services. Until such supports and services are available to meet the needs of children and families, states, communities and workers will be faced with their current dilemma: leave the children in their homes without adequate supports and risk additional harm to the children or place the children in foster care. To improve the outcomes of vulnerable children and their families, comprehensive financing reform is needed. Waivers are not enough.