Funding for State and Tribal child welfare agencies helps ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families. The types of child welfare services provided by States and counties vary and include family support and preservation services; child abuse prevention; and supports for out-of-home care, adoption, and guardianship. The way child welfare agencies fund their services also varies, coming from a mix of Federal, State, and local sources.
Some funding streams used for child welfare are dedicated solely for child welfare purposes, while others are designated for broader purposes.
The largest Federal source of child welfare funding is title IV-E of the Social Security Act, which supports foster care, adoption assistance, guardianship assistance programs, and John. H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Programs. In the past, title IV-E waivers allowed States and Tribes to use title IV-E funds to operate demonstration projects to serve children in out-of-home care or, in some instances, to prevent the need for foster care. Now, with the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, these waivers are expiring. The Family First Transition Act, passed in 2019, provides one-time, flexible funding to help States and Tribes implement Family First, as well as short-term funding for States with expiring title IV-E waivers.
Federal funds are also provided through the Children's Bureau, which administers several Federal programs dedicated to child welfare services and prevention:
- Child Welfare Services: Title IV-B, Subpart 1 of the Social Security Act
Provides grants to States and Tribes to keep families together and help prevent the removal of children from their homes.
- Promoting Safe and Stable Families: Title IV-B, Subpart 2, of the Social Security Act
Funds family preservation and community-based family support programs, time-limited family reunification services, and adoption promotion and support services.
- Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Discretionary Funds Program
Supports research on the causes, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect; demonstration programs to identify the best means of preventing maltreatment and treating troubled families; and the development and implementation of training programs.
- Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Grants
Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act authorizes a State grant program to develop, operate, expand, and enhance community-based, prevention-focused programs and activities designed to strengthen and support families to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Many States rely on other funding streams not specifically targeted for child welfare activities to fund child abuse prevention and other services. These include the following:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program
- Social Services Block Grant
- Supplemental Security Income program
Each of these programs has different guidelines that govern States' ability to use these funds for child abuse prevention activities. Policymakers and State and local child welfare decision-makers must determine how best to use local dollars for child welfare funding.
The resources on this page provide an overview on how funding is used for programs and services across the child welfare system.
Child Welfare Financing
National Conference of State Legislatures (2019)
Presents an interactive graphic demonstrating the complicated funding streams used on child welfare services across the United States.
Child Welfare Financing 101 (PDF - 1,178 KB)
Child Trends (2019)
Showcases a visual of Federal child welfare spending versus State and local spending and describes the variety of sources that support child welfare activities. The resource also includes a chart that describes how States use different combinations of funding and how their funding sources can vary.
Child Welfare Financing Survey SFY 2018
Child Trends (2021)
Offers a collection of reports and State-level data on child welfare funding, including a survey of child welfare agency expenditures, webinars, infographics, and more.
Child Welfare Funding
National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes
Describes child welfare funding for Tribes and provides a graphic of a spending breakdown and links to related funding information.
Child Welfare Funding in FY2018 (PDF - 995 KB)
Congressional Research Service
Outlines an overview of Federal child welfare funding in fiscal year 2018 and describes funds for different purposes.
Child Welfare Policy Primer: A Guide for Advocates, Policymakers, and Others Interested in Child Welfare Policy Reform (PDF - 511 KB)
First Focus (2017)
Provides an overview of the child welfare system, including funding streams, key trends in the field, a list of organizations working in the field, and additional resources.
How States Fund Child Welfare Activities
Child Trends (2016)
Offers a factsheet on child welfare funding that explores how agencies pay for child welfare services, including funding challenges and best practices.
A Primer on Title IV-E Funding for Child Welfare
Child Trends (2016)
Outlines Federal funding for child welfare agencies through title IV-E of the Social Security Act and how States use it.
State and Tribal Funding
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau (2020)
Explains Children's Bureau funding for States, Tribes, and communities, including title IV-E programs, title IV-B programs, and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act programs.
What Are Some of the Foundational Elements, Strategies, and Opportunities for Child Welfare Financing? [Webinar]
Casey Family Programs (2018)
Presents a three-part webinar series on child welfare funding and decision-making regarding child welfare financing.