Strategies for Child Welfare Leaders Facing Post-COVID Budget Cuts

Posted October 6, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

COVID-19 State Budget Shortfalls Could Be Largest on Record

Although the arrival date of a COVID-19 vac­cine is uncer­tain, experts agree that the eco­nom­ic fall­out from the pan­dem­ic will be felt long after the virus is con­tained. With state bud­get short­falls over the next sev­er­al years pro­ject­ed to be the high­est ever on record, social ser­vice agen­cies across the nation can expect to see vast reduc­tions in fund­ing. These cuts are espe­cial­ly trou­bling at a time when sys­tems are increas­ing­ly flood­ed with fam­i­lies pushed to the brink by job loss, iso­la­tion and oth­er COVID-relat­ed stressors.

Poised for Action: COVID-19, Child Wel­fare Bud­gets and Build­ing for an Equi­table Future, a new 24-minute webi­nar from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, lays out a plan for how child wel­fare agen­cies can man­age the fis­cal impli­ca­tions of the evolv­ing pandemic.

Now is the time to find sav­ings, focus on equi­ty, pri­or­i­tize fam­i­lies and work dif­fer­ent­ly,” says Rod­ney Brit­ting­ham, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group and cop­re­sen­ter on the webinar.

The pre­sen­ta­tion also taps the exper­tise of vet­er­an child wel­fare financ­ing con­sul­tant Den­nis Blazey, who sets the con­text for the dis­cus­sion by revis­it­ing the 2001 and 2008 reces­sions to review their impacts on child wel­fare agen­cies and com­mu­ni­ties. This is an exer­cise that can help sys­tems lead­ers antic­i­pate the like­ly effects of the cur­rent pandemic.

Next, Brit­ting­ham makes the case for a strate­gic response to the inevitable bud­get reduc­tions that avoids com­mon cri­sis pit­falls, includ­ing blunt, across-the-board cuts that lead to spikes in removals, case­work­er loads and place­ment costs.

By con­sid­er­ing the past as pro­logue, Blazey and Brit­ting­ham frame the present cri­sis as a chance to bold­ly reimag­ine how child wel­fare sys­tems work — by pri­or­i­tiz­ing pre­ven­tion, sup­port­ing birth and kin fam­i­lies, elim­i­nat­ing group care and advanc­ing equi­ty at every juncture.

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