As we brace for the release of the Governor’s May Revision this Friday, legislators have sent a clear signal that there’s at least one area of the budget they hope to spare from further cuts: the Child Welfare Services (CWS) Program. Last week, four Democrats and two Republicans on an Assembly budget subcommittee voted unanimously to restore, in 2010-11, all of the $80 million in state funds that the Governor vetoed from the 2009-10 CWS budget last year. A Senate budget subcommittee took a similar action in April, voting 2-0 (with the sole Republican not voting) to restore $74.6 million in 2010-11.
Counties use CWS funding to provide services to abused and neglected children, children in foster care, and their families using state, county, and federal funds. The Governor’s $80 million line-item veto caused a loss of $53.5 million in federal funds, bringing the total funding cut to $133.5 million in 2009-10. As a result, counties lost funding for more than 600 social workers, which has reduced counties’ ability to adequately staff child abuse hotlines, investigate allegations of child abuse, and find permanent homes for children who cannot be safely reunified with their families. The Governor’s veto also eliminated stipends for youth who “age out” of the foster care system, which had helped defray some of their costs for attending college and finding jobs. In addition, more former foster kids may have ended up homeless this year due to the veto’s impact on funding for transitional housing for former foster youth.
As we head into what looks to be another challenging summer in the state Capitol, it’s nice to see members of both parties going on record in support of restoring the funding needed to help the state’s most vulnerable children.
– Scott Graves