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Proposed FY2015 Budget Request Hearing

Monday, April 14, 2014
Testimony of Director Brenda Donald

Proposed FY2015 Budget Request
Committee on Human Services
Jim Graham, Chair
April 14, 2014
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 123
Washington, DC 20510-6250

Good afternoon, Chairman Graham and members of the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. I am Brenda Donald, director of the DC Child and Family Services Agency. I’ll present Mayor Gray’s proposed FY15 budget for protecting and serving abused and neglected children and their families in our city.


CFSA is a public agency on the front lines, routinely confronting challenging social issues in order to protect and assist vulnerable District residents. CFSA is unique in that both the local and state public child welfare agencies are under our roof. We currently serve 2,942 children and youth, including 1,786 (61%) at home and 1,156 (39%) in foster care.
 

Overview of Proposed Budget
Our proposed FY15 budget is strategy-based, directly supporting the key priorities of CFSA’s Four Pillars agenda. As you know, the Four Pillars are designed to deliver what all of us want for the children, youth and families CFSA serves—measurable positive outcomes. Now heading into its third year, the Four Pillars agenda has become the guiding force in District child welfare reform. Using best practices, innovative strategies, and teamwork, CFSA and our many child-serving partners have strengthened the local safety net. Quarterly monitoring of performance indicators shows we are steadily helping more children, youth, and families to achieve more positive outcomes more of the time. Our proposed budget supports continuation of this productive direction, along with some strategic investments to enhance it.
 

CFSA’s overall FY15 budget request is $249.2 million, an increase of $11.6 million (or 4.9%) from our FY14 approved budget of $237.6 million. Of this budget request, $171.3 million is Local funding—virtually flat from FY14. Requests for Intra-District funds at $11.1 million and “Special Purpose” funds at $1.2 million are also flat. The major change is that our expectation for Federal Grant funds in FY15 totals $65.6 million, a 19.8% increase or $10.5 million more than FY14.
Good News: Increased Federal Revenue
 

So how can we project an increase in federal funding of $10.5 million in just one year? This is a good-news story based on two reasons.
 

Support authorized under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act is the primary federal funding stream for child welfare. Over the past few years, CFSA has steadily improved claiming for Title IV-E funds despite a declining number of District children in foster care. In FY14, we received federal approval to claim for categories that we had not used before, boosting our overall federal reimbursement.

In FY13, the District applied for and won approval for what the federal funders call a Child Welfare Demonstration Project—or in everyday language, the IV-E waiver. Under the IV-E waiver, we stop claiming Title IV-E reimbursement for foster care and accept instead an annual lump-sum payment. Federal funders use a formula to calculate the annual lump sum for each jurisdiction based on history of number of children in care, claiming, and other factors. In our case, federal funders waited until the District gained approval to claim new categories of IV-E before applying the formula, thereby maximizing our annual lump sum. The waiver is for five years, so the District will receive a substantial and reliable amount of federal funding annually through FY18. Federal rules require that we must use any savings as a result of our waiver activities for child welfare services. This will allow us to continue reinvesting in prevention services, innovative practices, and quality programs to become a first-class child welfare system.
 

Trends
Last year, CFSA’s big story was receipt of the federal grant for work in child trauma. This year, the headline is launch of the IV-E waiver, which I just described. In both cases, CFSA didn’t simply go after federal grants and happen to win these. Rather, we intentionally targeted specific federal grant opportunities in line with strategies in our continuing reform of local child welfare.
 

Over the past two years, I’ve stressed the need to give child well-being the same level of attention that child welfare has traditionally devoted to safety and permanence. I’ve also emphasized that as the number of District children involved with child welfare continues to decline, we are looking at a sea change in what the District community needs from us. To respond, CFSA is shifting our traditional posture as a system geared for foster care to one adept at serving and strengthening families.
In the largest sense, the key trend in local child welfare today is from quantity to quality. In the past, scrambling to manage high caseloads consumed a lot of our resources. With that challenge behind us, we can devote resources today to effective services that help struggling families break the cycle of abuse and neglect. This is the backdrop for the series of investments CFSA plans to make in FY15.
 

Investments
The vision for the IV-E waiver includes new funding to establish a continuum of services families can use with or without entering the child welfare system. Imagine a robust local safety net composed of best practices in child abuse prevention and family support. Help ranges from one-time or short-term supports to long-term, intensive assistance depending on the needs of the children and family involved. The five Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives serve as community hubs to coordinate the network of public and community-based organizations providing the services.
 

In FY15, an investment of $6.5 million will support initiatives such as:

  • HOMEBUILDERS®, intensive services that help troubled families resolve crises without entering the child welfare system and other prevention programs.
  • Project Connect that helps children go home safely to parents who struggled with high-risk issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • Putting infant and maternal health specialists and mental health/substance abuse clinicians at the Collaboratives.
  • Developing Family Coaches, who are peer mentors for families in crisis.

As we launch our waiver activities, we are already identifying additional needs, including increased capacity for the Collaboratives to effectively serve as community hubs and expanded prevention services, among others.
In our continuing drive to improve child and family well-being, we will make additional investments in education and substance abuse treatment. To increase supports for academic achievement, we will invest $972,000 in:

  • Ensuring the youngest children we serve get the benefit of early childhood education.
  • Tutoring for children and youth of all ages.
  • Academic achievement incentives for youth.

We have recently engaged the American Bar Association’s Legal Center for Foster Care and Education to guide us in developing an education strategy. We expect to identify additional opportunities for investment to support educational achievement for our children and youth.
 

Over the past 18 months, the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare has facilitated planning among CFSA, APRA, and several other providers. These facilitators who work all over the nation have lauded the District for the strong commitment of the partners, thoroughness of the planning process, and focus on serving youth as well as adults. This year, we’ve started to establish the response program and look forward to full implementation in FY15. An investment of $1.1 million will support:

  • Mobile assessment of youth and adults.
  • Incentives for youth to enter and complete treatment.
  • In-home treatment services and expanded treatment options for youth placed in Maryland.
  • Increased support for successful recovery using family coaches.

Preparing older youth for adulthood continues to be a strong focus. In FY15, we will continue to invest in support for college preparation and graduation, work experience and vocational training, and for services to ensure youth are ready to transition out of care. We have already briefed you on our revamped subsidized employment program, which you championed, and we are excited about the new direction. The high ticket item is $2 million to relocate and improve our community-based Office of Youth Empowerment, which will allow us to create an inviting environment for our youth and a functioning work space for staff.
 

And finally, CFSA has a need to invest in modernizing data management. Our automated case management system, FACES, is structured to meet reporting requirements of our federal funders and the Court Monitor, and we intend to maintain it. At the same time, changing needs in the community and the Four Pillars focus on outcomes have created new demands for management information beyond FACES. We also want to ensure social workers have the tools to meet performance expectations. In FY15, CFSA will invest $2.3 million in:

  • Better mobile devices and custom apps to allow social workers to do more work from the field.
  • Meeting data collection and tracking needs of our new trauma and IV-E waiver activities.
  • Data dashboards, analytics, and other enhancements to support CFSA self-management, planning, decision making, and performance oversight.
  • A modern document management system.

Conclusion
In closing, CFSA’s FY15 budget request represents a bold vision for District child welfare in keeping with our progressive direction and the changing needs of our community. I appreciate your concern for the vulnerable District residents we serve and respectfully request your support in approving our budget request. Thank you.