Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2018, Child and Family Services Agency
Testimony of Shana Bartley, Acting Executive Director
DC Action for Children
Agency Budget Hearing
Fiscal Year 2018
Child and Family Services Agency
Before the Committee on Human Services
Council of the District of Columbia
April 27, 2017
Chairwoman 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 analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well being in the District accessible to policymakers and community members alike. We work closely with city agencies, the school system and service providers to share the most accurate and timely data, along with clear and accessible analysis. Our advocacy agenda is based on these data.
We continue to examine trends in child safety in the District through our KIDS COUNT data work and are pleased to see the data reflect CFSA’s steps towards achieving its mission of protecting the safety and well-being of children who are abused, neglected, or at-risk of abuse or neglect. For example, substantiated investigations of child abuse and neglect have decreased by 46% since 2010. Improvements are also reflected in the agency’s overall caseload: CFSA is now serving 2,675 children, 36% of them are in foster care and 64% served in-home.
As CFSA continues to “narrow the front door” and shift more resources to the preventing of child abuse and neglect and strengthening families prior to crisis, we feel that it is important to address first whether the agency has enough resources in its budget to achieve its mission and vision, and second whether this budget accurately reflects the philosophy by which the agency seeks to accomplish its impact.
The FY2018 proposed budget includes the same number of full time employees, and an overall 2.6% decrease in funding to CFSA. Significant reductions in funding include a $6.4 million decrease in the adoption and guardianship subsidy and in related funds devoted to child placement. CFSA notes that both of these are “right-sizing” reductions because it is serving fewer children each year. What’s more, CFSA expects this trend will persist as it continues to shift more investments towards resources on the “front end,” with the intent of intervening early and preventing child abuse and neglect from occurring in the home.
Out-of-home Placement Funding Cuts Amidst National Uncertainty
DC Action applauds the steps CFSA has taken to proactively invest in family supports to prevent child abuse and neglect and is pleased to see the number of cases decrease since 2010. However, we are concerned that the sizable proposed cuts to adoption and guardianship subsidies and other funding sources related to out-of-home placements are too large and thus set the agency up to be in a position where it would not have the funds budgeted to place an unexpected influx of children. Though we recognize that it is impossible to plan precisely for an unknown future, DC Action feels that the current federal administration’s stance on immigration policy makes it not only reasonable, but rational for the agency to anticipate and plan for an abrupt future in which an increased number of children will need immediate care. Therefore, DC Action advocates that CFSA leadership proactively articulate and share a clear plan within the budget that is equipped to respond to this uncertainty with the funds necessary to keep children in the District safe.
Prevention through Investing in Community Partnerships
In order to make substantive strides towards reducing the high rates of child maltreatment in the District compared to the national average, we must bolster CFSA’s prevention efforts. It is for this reason that we urge the Committee to preserve funding for Community Partnerships, as Community Partnerships Services lost $1.3 million in the proposed budget, and Prevention Services lost $1.5 million. We recognize that CFSA continues to make tremendous advances in preventing child abuse and neglect through innovative partnerships and greater emphasis on community-based support systems and have been pleased to see these areas robustly funded in the past. However, it is important to note that building rapport in the community takes time, and as such funding in this area should be consistent and robust in order to achieve its goal of empowering and strengthening families.
The work of the Healthy Families and Thriving Communities Collaboratives serves as an example of the community-building and engagement work being done across the District. DC Action feels strongly that CFSA will not be equipped to fully achieve its mission of protecting the safety and well being of children in the District if its agency budget does not include robust funding in upstream community partnership initiatives.
Highlighting Early Childhood Performance Indicators
Finally, DC Action would like to call attention to the performance indicators and outcomes identified in its performance plan. Given the extensive body of research indicating how crucial early childhood is to a child’s healthy growth and development, DC Action feels that CFSA’s identified performance measures should include indicators that more dynamically speak to a child’s development before they enter school. Currently, the only performance indicator related specifically to early childhood is a developmental screening prior to entering foster care. DC Action feels that CFSA should include such screenings for all children touched by the agency in its performance measures, not just screenings for those entering care.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. We are happy to serve as a resource to the Committee and the Council.
 Data via DC KIDS COUNT; compares substantiated investigations from 2010 to 2016. Source: DC Child and Family Services Agency. Accessed at: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/9384-substantiated-investigations-of-child-neglect-and-abuse-by-ward?loc=10&loct=3#detailed/3/any/false/870,573,36,868,133/any/18507
 CFSA FY 2016-2017 Oversight Responses.