The Emerging Impact of Sequestration on the Nation’s Most Vulnerable Children

sad girl sitting with teddy bear

On Wednesday, July 24, there was a Budget Summit held in DC by First Focus.  In the Children’s Budget for 2013, child welfare spending took a big hit in programs that attempt to prevent child abuse and keep families unified. The overall budget numbers for the first time give some context to the impact of the sequestration cuts. The human cost is likely immeasurable and invisible to many but in terms of actual spending numbers the report indicates that children now receive less than 8 percent of the federal budget. Since 2010 spending has fallen by $35 billion and when spending is adjusted for inflation it has decreased by 16 percent just since then. Discretionary spending, which is separate from mandatory, entitlement and tax spending and is appropriated each year by congressional action, has declined by 13 percent.

In terms of the child welfare spending;

Title IV-B part 1Child Welfare Services (CWS) funding is cut to $262 million in this fiscal year down from the total of $280 million in 2012. That reduces CWS to its lowest actual spending level since 1990 when it was funded at $252 million. If that 1990 total had kept pace with inflation it would be more than $427 million. CWS is a flexible fund that can be used for a range of services. In FY 2010 the biggest categories of spending in CWS were:

  •  Child protective services –services to prevent and investigate child abuse
  •  Family support—to prevent child abuse by supporting the most vulnerable families 
  • Reunification services—to help reunify a foster child with his or her family 
  • Foster care maintenance—a limited number of states are allowed to use these funds for foster care 

Title IV-B part 2, with the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) cut to $387 million in this fiscal year, down from the total of $408 million in 2012. This program, newer than CWS, has had a better financial history. It peaked at $455 million in FY 2007. PSSF is a more complex funding stream as the totals here include $20 million for workforce development, $20 million for substance abuse treatment and $30 million for the state courts. What remains is the funding for the program’s main purposes. In this category total funding was approximately $338 million in 2012 with that being reduced to approximately $321 million for the four main services:

  • Family preservation—intensive work for families in crisis to prevent the placement of children into foster care
  • Family support—to prevent child abuse by supporting the most vulnerable families 
  • Reunification services—to help reunify a foster child with his or her family 
  • Adoption promotion and support—to support families that have adopted including providing post adoption services 

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) funding is cut to$87 million down from $93 million in 2012. In 2012 state grants were funded at $27 million, discretionary grants were funded at $25 million and community based child abuse prevention grants were funded at $41 million. Funding for the three programs peaked in 2005 when it totaled $111 million. CAPTA includes a number of mandates on state child protective service systems including mandatory reporting of child abuse, legal representation, research and prevention:

  • State grants—are intended to fund state child protective services
  • Discretionary grants—provide research into child abuse and child maltreatment 
  • Community-based child abuse prevention—funds, through various local programs to prevent child maltreatment from occurring 

There are also a number of other child welfare programs that are reduced including the Adoption Incentives fund, the Adoption Opportunities Act, the Abandoned Infant program as well as child abuse programs in other areas of the budget such as funding for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program and the Children’s Advocacy Centers for maltreated children.

The entitlement programs including Adoption Assistance, Foster Care and Kinship Care are exempted from the cuts as are entitlement programs adjusted according to state claims based on children in care. A fact not overlooked by those who are concerned about any discussion to convert the entitlement programs into flexible funding block grants.

Authors: Amy Harfeld and John Sciamana

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