Federal Foster Care Financing: How and Why the Current Funding Structure Fails to Meet the Needs of the Child Welfare Field. States' Title IV-E Claiming Bears Little Relationship to Service Quality or Outcomes

08/01/2005

Even if not achieving high quality overall, one might expect and hope that spending variations among States might relate to the overall quality of child welfare systems as revealed in results of the Child and Family Services Reviews. Analyses presented below relate the variations in claiming patterns among States described above to child welfare system performance.

Figure 5 shows per child claims plotted against the number of areas measured in the CFSR in which the State was found to be in substantial compliance. The three states with the highest claims per child were in compliance with 3, 5, and 7areas respectively of the 14 possible areas of compliance in their first Child and Family Services Review. Average per-child claims did not differ appreciably between the highest and lowest performing states. The eight states that were in compliance in the fewest areas (1, 2 or 3 of 14) averaged $19,293 in federal funds per title IV-E child, while the 12 highest performing states (in compliance with 8 or 9 of the 14 areas) averaged claims of $19,824 per child. There are States with relatively high- and low-federal claims at each level of CFSR performance.

Figure 5.
Child and Family Services Review Compliance Is
Only Weakly Related to Levels of Title IV-E Foster Care Funds
Claimed Per Eligible Child
(data shown for 50 states plus DC)

Figure 5. Child and Family Services Review Compliance Is Only Weakly Related to Levels of Title IV-E Foster Care Funds Claimed Per Eligible Child (data shown for 50 States plus DC)

Claiming levels similarly bear little relationship to States' performance in achieving permanency for children in foster care. Figure 6 plots each State's federal claims for the title IV-E foster care program per title IV-E eligible child against the percentage of children in foster care for whom permanency is achieved. Permanency data, from the States' Child and Family Services Reviews, shows that States' success in either reunifying children with parents within one year or finalizing an adoption within two years of foster care entry varies widely. Six States achieve permanency within these time frames for under one-third of children in foster care, while five either approach or exceed the national standard of 90 percent. Most perform somewhere in between. The wide disparities among States' performance on what is a key child welfare function seem unconnected to the amount of federal funds claimed from the major source of federal child welfare funding, the title IV-E foster care program.

Figure 6.
Permanency Outcomes Are Unrelated to Levels of State Title IV-E Foster Care Claims
(data shown for 50 states plus DC)

Figure 6. Permanency Outcomes Are Unrelated to Levels of State Title IV-E Foster Care Claims (data shown for 50 states plus DC)

If claims levels are not strongly related to child welfare system quality or outcomes, what other factors might be involved in determining spending? Variation among States in the actual foster care rates paid to families caring for children bears only a weak relationship to per-child foster care claims levels (Figure 7). As an example, four of six States with basic maintenance payments in 2000 of less than $300 per month for a young child had higher than median levels of claims per child. These four States also had higher federal claims per child than did four of seven States which in 2000 paid basic maintenance rates of higher than $500 per month for young children. Patterns of residential care use among States are similarly unrelated to claiming disparities.

Figure 7.
Foster Care Maintenance Rates Are Weakly Related to Foster Care Claims

Figure 7. Foster Care Maintenance Rates Are Weakly Related to Foster Care Claims.

Wide disparities in federal claims might be viewed as positive if States were achieving better outcomes with higher spending. This argument does not hold up to scrutiny, however, in the face of Child and Family Services Review results. The findings of these reviews are disappointing even in States with relatively high costs. Of course, because title IV-E is the focus here, this analysis only includes foster care costs. States' spending on other child welfare services may contribute to performance. The wide variety of these other potential funding sources and their variability among the States, however, makes it quite difficult to examine them in a consistent fashion.

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