GAO: States juggling budgets to meet needs of child services
WASHINGTON — States are patching together funds from a variety of sources to care for thousands of children who have been abused or neglected, but they are struggling to meet demand for services, a federal watchdog agency said on Wednesday.
“Child welfare agencies, like other state agencies, operate in an environment of ongoing fiscal constraint,” the Government Accountability Office said in a special report. “They must make difficult choices about how to allocate their limited resources.”
In 2011, an estimated 6.2 million children were referred to child welfare agencies because they showed signs of possible maltreatment, GAO said.
According to the Health and Human Services agency, the number of referrals has increased since 2007. An estimated 5.9 million children were referred to agencies in 2010. HHS estimates 1,570 children died from abuse and neglect in 2011.
Many of those referred to agencies received counseling or home visits or were put into foster care, where families temporarily look after them. The agencies also provided help for parents, including training and substance-abuse treatment.
The majority of federal funding that year for child welfare, $7.1 billion, went to states for foster care, while $730 million was distributed through formula grants to address child abuse and safety. Congress also appropriated $189 million for child-abuse prevention, GAO said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states and the federal government spend about $25 billion every year on child welfare services.
Many states had to use money from other federal programs, with more than half in 2011 pulling money from the aid that replaced welfare known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, GAO found.
Some agencies also tapped Medicaid, the health insurance for the poor that states administer with partial reimbursements from the government. For example, Minnesota claimed $24 million in Medicaid reimbursements for helping children at risk of being placed in foster care and their families. Medicaid can take up to a third of a state's budget and is the fastest growing expense for almost all states.
Even with budgetary maneuvering, many states cannot meet demands. GAO canvassed 13 welfare agencies and found most are straining to provide substance-abuse treatment and material needs such as housing. Almost all said there is a shortage of mental health services, such as child psychiatry.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police: NYC cop killer invited people to watch shooting
- New York farmers lament lost opportunity for natural gas riches with fracking ban
- Coal mines near record low in worker deaths
- Georgia prosecutor Yates tapped for No. 2 post in Justice Department
- Government survey: More teens trying out e-cigarettes than real thing
- New York City subways slowly upgrading from 1930s-era technology
- Gray wolf decision reversed
- IBM’s Watson supercomputing system to be applied to PTSD
- Florida officer slain; 1 charged
- Nativity scene placed by Satanic display at Michigan Capitol
- Breastfeeding can save millions in health costs, study says