NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Child Welfare Programs Failing the Children

April 28, 2004

Child welfare programs are intended to provide care for abused and neglected children who are removed from their homes by child protective services. However, every state failed federal reviews of their child welfare programs over the past three years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And many state officials said they agree with the findings.

No state fully complies with the 14 federal child welfare program performance standards used to assess state programs, and 16 states did not meet any of the seven standards for the safety and well-being of children. According to the report:

  • In all the states, federal officials found significant numbers of children suffering abuse or neglect more than once in a six-month period.
  • They said that caseworkers not visiting children often enough to assess their needs and are not providing promised medical and mental health services.
  • Some 900,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2002, 1,400 of whom died, according to the report.

Not one state met one important standard -- children having "permanency and stability in their living situations." Carole Keeton Strayhorn, comptroller of Texas, says some children have been moved among 30 or 40 homes and aren't any better off than they were with negligent parents.

A number of states will be financially penalized. After periodical re-evaluations, penalties could be suspended if states developed plans to correct the program failures and made substantial progress.

Source: Robert Pear, "U.S. Finds Fault in All 50 States' Child Welfare Programs," The New York Times, April 26, 2004.


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