Child Welfare: An Overview of Federal Programs and Their Current Funding

Source: Emilie Stoltzfus, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43458, January 10, 2017

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. As the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted, states have the primary obligation to ensure the welfare of children and their families. At the state level, the child welfare “system” consists of public and private child protection and child welfare workers, public and private social services workers, state and local judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel. These representatives of various state and local entities assume inter related roles while carrying out child welfare activities, including
• promoting child and family well-being through community-based activities;
• investigating, or otherwise responding to, allegations of child abuse and neglect;
• providing services to families to ensure children’s safety in the home;
• removing children from their homes when that is necessary for children’s safety;
• supervising and administering payments for children placed in foster care;
• ensuring regular case review and permanency planning for children in foster care;
• helping children leave foster care to permanent families via reunification with parents or, when that is not possible, via adoption or legal guardianship;
• offering post-permanency services and supports to maintain families; and
• helping older children in foster care, and youth who leave care without placement in a permanent family, to become successful adults. ….

….This report begins with a discussion of the status of FY2017 appropriations, which had not been finalized as of early January 2017, and then reviews federal appropriations activity in FY2016. The remainder, and bulk, of the report provides brief descriptions of each federal child welfare program, including its purpose and recent (FY2012-FY2016) final funding levels……