President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget request includes an unprecedented focus on the child welfare system, including $19 billion in new funding over 10 years, with significant investments in kinship care, family support, and transition-age youth. The recently released proposal for the fiscal year that runs from October 1, 2023, through September 30, 2024, includes:
Kinship care refers to a child being raised by people they know and trust, like relatives or close family friends. Research shows children who are placed with kin have better outcomes and experiences within the system than those placed with non-kin or in institutions. Still, nationally only about 35% of children in foster care are placed with kin and those placed with kin often receive far less support than those with non-kin caregivers.
Increasing by 10% the rate at which the government reimburses states for placement with kin and decreasing the reimbursement rate by 5% for group placements
The government reimburses states and tribes for a share of expenses for care of eligible children – and it does so at the same share of costs regardless of whether the child is placed in a foster home, with kin, or in an institution. Changing this rate will encourage kin placements and make it easier to better support kin.
Raising the reimbursement rate for evidence-based kinship navigator programs and investing $30 million in developing those programs
These programs help kin caregivers identify and access services and support. Biden proposes $30 million to help states and tribes develop kinship navigator program models to meet high evidence standards. Once they reach those standards, the budget proposes significantly increasing reimbursements to help states and tribes serve more families, including a larger increase for the next four years to help build the programs.
Expanding the adoption tax credit to allow kin caregivers taking children to permanency
The adoption tax credit helps adoptive parents cover expenses like court costs, attorney fees, and travel expenses. Low-income families adopting children out of the child welfare system cannot access the full amount of the adoption tax credit, and kin caregivers getting children out of the system through guardianship don’t qualify. Biden proposes allowing certain guardianships to qualify for the tax credit and making it fully refundable so adoptive families can get support, regardless of income.
Requiring states to track kinship diversion
Kinship diversion refers to when child welfare agencies remove children from their parents and place them with kin without bringing them into system custody, meaning they cannot access services and resources provided to foster parents. Requiring reporting would help us understand what, if anything, needs to be done to protect children and families.
Most parents involved with the foster care system love their children and want what is best for them but simply don’t have what they need. In many cases, children can thrive safely at home with their families with resources, services, and support. Still, only 13% of federal child welfare funding goes toward services to support families and prevent them from entering care.
Increasing reimbursement rate for Title IV-E Prevention Program and adding flexibility
In 2018, Congress created the Title IV-E Prevention Program, which provides funding to help keep children safely with their families and out of foster care. The government will reimburse states and tribes for certain evidence-based mental health, substance use prevention and treatment, and parenting services to support and stabilize families. But creating programs is expensive and uptake has been slow. The budget proposes a massive increase in the share of the Title IV-E Prevention Program that the government pays, including up to 90% for several years, so states increase their ability to offer services. It also proposes allowing a portion for emerging or developing services to give flexibility for innovation and cultural adaptations.
Providing more funding for upstream prevention programs
The budget proposes $3 billion over 10 years for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families program, which provides flexible funding to states to prevent unnecessary separation of children from their families, improve the quality of care and services, and help ensure children end up in permanent homes. It also funds Regional Partnership Grants, which support children whose parents suffer from substance use disorders, as well as the Court Improvement Program. Biden proposes creating a program to fund legal representation for families in civil matters, like housing or employment. Additionally, the budget proposes a 27% increase in funding for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Program.
For decades, services and programs have attempted to meet the unique needs of older youth in foster care to ensure better outcomes for youth as they leave foster care and transition to adulthood. But these programs have been insufficient, and youth leaving foster care have faced high rates of unemployment, incarceration, and homelessness. The budget proposes $10 billion over the next 10 years to ensure youth are prepared for adulthood and that no young person ever ages out of foster care into homelessness.
Substantially increasing funding for the Chafee program
The John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood provides services and support for youth aged 14 to 21 (or 23 in some states) to help them prepare for success in school, work, and life. Funding has been small and has not kept up with inflation or the growth of the population it has been meant to serve. The budget proposes increasing funding for Chafee by $1 billion over 10 years and offers new flexibilities to make more young people eligible for services and expand the variety and amount of services available.
Creating a program to end homelessness for youth aging out of care
More than 30% of youth aging out of foster care experience homelessness at least once before they turn 26, studies show. The budget proposes a housing voucher program that would provide $9 billion over 10 years to ensure each of the nearly 20,000 young people aging out of foster care annually can access a housing voucher.
Additionally, the budget includes:
Every spring, the president sends Congress a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year (October 1 through September 30 of the following year), which outlines the administration’s priorities. Here are some commonly asked questions about the budgeting process and how you can get involved:
Is this the final budget for the federal government?
No. Congress sets funding levels for federal agencies and programs. The president proposes the budget, and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate then must introduce and pass legislation for it to go into effect. Congress may decide to fund any of the president’s proposals at different levels or not at all.
Will Congress pass everything the president proposed?
Likely not. Members of Congress have their own priorities and listen to people and interest groups in their states or communities to decide what should be included in legislation. Often, the final budget will include some, but not all, of the president’s requests.
If it might not be approved as written, why does the budget request matter?
The yearly budget request is the best way to understand an administration’s priorities. In addition to Congress, the budget is a signal to federal agencies about what they should prioritize. When the budget includes $50 million for grants to address racial inequity in child welfare, that tells federal agencies that they should focus on equity in child welfare, too.
How does the president decide what is in the budget?
The president and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) work hard to hear from a wide variety of constituencies about what programs or services should be prioritized and what level of funding is needed. This includes federal agencies, advocacy groups (including Think of Us), and other subject matter experts. Additionally, the president and OMB will hear from constituents about how the government could serve them better.
How does federal child welfare spending affect me?
Biden proposes increasing funding for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood, which provides services and support for youth ages 14 to 21 (or 23 in some states) to help them prepare for success in school, work, and life. The proposal would allow states to support more young people. Biden also proposes changes to how those funds can be spent, which will influence which services are offered. A president’s budget may try to change the incentives for states and tribes so that they will work with families differently. For instance, Biden’s budget proposes changing how the federal government reimburses states for foster care by increasing the reimbursement rate for placement with kin and correlating the reimbursement rate for group placements. This wouldn’t directly affect families, but it would encourage states to focus on finding more kinship families and how to support those families.
What can I do to make these a reality?
Nothing in the budget will go into effect if Congress doesn’t introduce and pass legislation. If there is a specific proposal that you think is important, contact your U.S. senator and representative to let them know why it matters to you and encourage them to introduce or support legislation.