Federal Support

Federal Support

Federal Funding Sources For Child Protective Services

Child welfare programs perform critical services for our society's most vulnerable citizens. These programs aim to prevent neglect and abuse of children, ensure children have safe permanent homes, and promote their overall well-being.

"Child protective services" fall under child welfare services (CWS) and comprise a large portion of what CWS funds are spent on. Child protective services include investigations of abuse, caseworker activities, emergency services, counseling, and other activities that support the prevention of abuse and neglect of children. Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming need for child welfare services in the United States. There were more than 407,000 children in foster care in the United States in 2020. In fiscal year 2019, child protection agencies investigated claims of abuse involving 7.9 million children.  

Ensuring the safety and welfare of children is critical to the betterment of society. Because child welfare and child protective services are so important, they receive federal funding from the United States government.

What kinds of services do child welfare programs provide?

States bear primary responsibility for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and families. Most federal and state funds designated for child welfare services go toward public and private agencies, social workers, lawmakers who work together to perform a variety of functions, including:

●    Community-based activities for children and families
●    Investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect;
●    Removing children from their homes when necessary for children's safety;
●    Payments for children in foster care;
●    Ensuring regular case review and permanency planning for children in foster care;
●    Helping children leave foster care to enter permanent families via reunification with parents or via adoption or legal guardianship;
●    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.

Who provides funding for Child Protective Services?
The Children's Bureau is the primary federal funding source for child welfare programs and services. The Children’s Bureau is a branch of the Administration for Children and Families, under the The United States Department of Health and Human Services.  This funding is allocated as part of the Department of Health and Human Services annual appropriations bill.  Federal HHS funding is provided on a mandatory and discretionary basis and is distributed through State and Tribal agencies as well as through discretionary grant  programs. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act names funding for foster kids mandatory; states must provide foster care and adoption assistance services, and the federal government must help cover the costs associated with those services.  Title IV-B of the Social Security Act includes the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services (CWS) and the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) programs, which authorize grants to states and tribes for child and family services.
The Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is an example of discretionary funding; CAPTA offers federal grant money to a variety of public and private organizations in support of the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Additional child welfare programs authorized by the Victims of Child Abuse Act recieve funding through appropriations bills of the Departments of Commerce and Justice.

Ninety-seven percent of federal CWS funding goes to state, tribal, territorial agencies, while the remaining 3% goes to other public and private organizations.

How much funding is provided?
The annual appropriations acts for the aforementioned federal agencies determine how much money will be allocated to child welfare programming each year.

The amount of federal funds spent on child welfare services in fiscal year 2019  was approximately $7.8 billion.  Most of the funding goes toward children in foster care or those who have exited the foster care system either to enter permanent families or because they have aged out of the system.

Child welfare services eligibility and limits
Child protective services are  performed at the state level, while the federal government provides a certain share of the cost to provide these services. In order to receive federal funds, states must meet  20-50% of the program costs and abide by federal policies concerning child welfare.
Funding is distributed to state-level departments and agencies based on population, per capita income, and other factors.