Policy Issue: Child Welfare
Strengthen Child Welfare Service Delivery To Enhance Child and Family Well-Being
Social workers play a critical role in child welfare systems nationwide by protecting the well-being of children, youths, and supporting families in need. In fiscal year 2014, an estimated 702,000 children were found to have experienced maltreatment, with children under the age of one being the most likely to have been maltreated. Of the children and youths who were abused or neglected, an estimated 147,462 received foster care services1. There were a total of 415,129 children and youths in foster care and 18,934 young people who aged out of foster care in fiscal year 20142. Furthermore, it is estimated that 1,580 children die each year due to child abuse and neglect, and most experts report that this number may be much higher3. Ensuring that the needs of children who experience or who are at risk for maltreatment are addressed is critical as the impact of adverse childhood experiences cascades throughout the lifetime. These experiences can result in higher risks for health and mental health issues, and adverse economic and employment outcomes4.
A qualified and stable child welfare workforce is the foundation of child welfare service delivery. Each day, social workers face critical decisions about the lives of these vulnerable children and youths while working in stressful environments that include high caseloads and workloads, inadequate supervision, safety concerns, and limited training and resources (for example, access to emerging technology). All of these conditions, coupled with low salaries and administrative burdens, can affect the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. Child welfare systems across the country are stretched beyond capacity, causing many social work professionals to be extremely overburdened. With solid education and training, supervision and support, and access to the appropriate resources, social workers can effectively serve children, youths, and families involved in child welfare to ensure healthier outcomes and enhanced well-being.
- Support the use of Title IV-E for BSW/MSW education in the child welfare workforce (addressed in the President’s Fiscal 2017 Budget Request) to allow states to directly charge the costs of education Title IV-E program.5.
- Protect the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) from budget cuts and elimination. SSBG funds critical services to prevent child maltreatment and improve outcomes for children who have been maltreated or are at risk of abuse or neglect.
- Build on programs serving children and families such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (or TANF); Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program; Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, and Head Start to offer a variety of child maltreatment prevention services.
- Ensure that efforts focused on federal financing for child welfare services include provisions that maintain a stable and well-qualified child welfare workforce.
- Promote incentives for BSW and MSW students to pursue child welfare work through student stipends, loan forgiveness programs, educational leave for current child welfare workers, adequate salaries, and manageable caseloads.