Testimony of Shana Bartley, CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing, FY 2016-2017
Testimony of Shana Bartley, Acting Executive Director
DC Action for Children
Agency Performance Oversight Hearing
Fiscal Year 2016-2017
Office of the Child and Family Services Agency
Before the Committee on Human Services
Council of the District of Columbia
March 1, 2017
Councilmember Nadeau and members of the Committee on Human Services, please accept my written testimony as the Council of the District of Columbia reviews the Child and Family Services Agency’s (CFSA) performance in the past year. My name is Shana Bartley, and I am acting executive director at DC Action for Children (DC Action).
DC Action provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource accessible to policymakers and community members alike that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.
My testimony today will focus on CFSA’s role in early childhood home visiting in the District. In addition to emphasizing the importance of home visiting as a family support strategy in the District, my testimony will specifically highlight a funding shift that occurred in fiscal year 2016 that affected early childhood home visiting at the agency, the potential repercussions of this shift and the steps that DC Action proposes that CFSA take in order to ensure families in need of this important resource obtain high quality services.
#1: Home visiting provides an opportunity to support DC children and families early on, preempting the need for costlier, more intensive services.
City-wide investments in early childhood have the power to positively influence the lives of all 47,300 children under the age of 6 who call DC home. However, the opportunity for such investments to positively influence the life course of the 1,059 DC children in foster care cannot be overstated. Given that 28% of all children in foster care are under the age of 6, and children under one year of age make up the largest group of children (96 children) in care, home visiting is especially relevant to young children in the child welfare system and their families.  Home visiting can play a key role in preventing entries into foster care to begin with, but providing parent coaching and education as well as linking families to resources that create pathways to family suficiency. In alignment with CFSA’s articulated mission, home visiting services can empower such families to support their child’s growth and development and prevent instances of abuse and neglect.
As a family support strategy, early childhood home visiting provides education, parenting techniques and resources to families with young children. In these evidence-based programs, trained home visitors work collaboratively with families who are expecting or who already have young children to achieve improved outcomes in school readiness, child welfare, and/or child health and development. From an economic perspective, home visiting is especially noteworthy because engagement with home visiting programs can preempt the need for costlier, more intensive remedial services such as special education and child protective services that a child may otherwise require later in life. Research also indicates that home visiting can also be linked to reduced crime and health care costs.
#2: Repercussions of and Responses to Shifts in Funding for Home Visiting at CFSA
The positive contributions that CFSA has already made to home visiting in the District are many. We applaud the agency for its commitment to leveraging home visiting as a strategy to support and empower families, specifically with an eye towards upstream prevention of child abuse and neglect. As such, CFSA has targeted funding towards programs that support healthy child development, foster positive family relationships, identify and address maternal and child health concerns and connect families to local resources to further support families.
Previously, CFSA funded home visiting through a combination of local and two federal funding sources: Social Security Act’s Title IV-E and the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) grants, which are authorized by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendment (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2010. However, in FY16, the agency ceased funding such programs through the Title IV-E waiver, instead requesting that the DC Department of Health (DOH) coordinate to enroll the families served under the waiver into the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Families were able to continue receiving services because MIECHV slots were available, Title IV-E and MIECHV funded the same providers and the families served through the Title IV-E funded programs would also qualify for MIECHV.
Though DC Action is pleased that CFSA joins other District partners in recognizing that home visiting can be a strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect, we feel it is equally important to recognize that home visiting services are also a critical support to prevent any future instances child abuse and neglect in families who already have involvement with CFSA. However, because CFSA stopped directing Title IV-E dollars towards home visiting programs, CFSA is no longer able to direct home visiting services to families who have already had involvement with CFSA. This gap in services that CFSA can provide exists because the remaining funding source at the agency, CBCAP, only funds home visiting services for families with no past history of CFSA involvement.
DC Action urges leaders at CFSA to coordinate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DOH in order to ensure that families with a history of CFSA involvement previously served through programs funded by CFSA’s Title IV-E waiver can receive priority for DOH’s MIECHV program. These families demonstrate the greatest need for home visiting and should receive preference for enrollment. The establishment of a targeted MOU is critical in order to ensure that families with the highest need receive support and that the agencies can share important information so that families get connected to services quickly.
DC Action’s request for CFSA to create a MOU with DOH speaks to our larger call for CFSA, and its peer District agencies, to renew its commitment to collaborative, inter-agency work.
We are grateful to see CFSA consistent dedication supporting families and preventing child abuse and neglect in the District. Thank you again for the opportunity to submit written testimony.
 U.S. Census Bureau. (2016). Children Characteristics, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates: District of Columbia. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_5YR/S0901/0400000US11.