A White Paper on America's Family Values: The Facts About Child Maltreatment and the Child Welfare Financing System

73 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018

See all articles by Robert Fellmeth

Robert Fellmeth

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: 2018


This White Paper identifies shortcomings in the current federal child welfare financing system, and recommends changes for improvement. It calls for a funding system that allows effective implementation of child welfare laws by government at the state and federal levels. It also recommends required longitudinal independent studies of each major program receiving federal funds and a specified appropriation for that purpose. Such empirical testing would include sunset dates terminating each program where data fails to warrant continuation. Such sunset proceedings are commonly used in evaluating regulatory agencies in many states. Based on the studies they compel, programs that do not perform will be discontinued and those that do may be continued, expanded and replicated in analogous settings. The understandable reticence to expend monies on social welfare among many in Congress should be assuaged by that assured accountability.

Nelson Mandela was famously quoted as observing, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” But federal child welfare spending is a step above such general humanitarian sentiments. This is not funding for children in general. Rather, it is funding to protect and promote the well-being of those who are more than our children in a metaphorical sense. These children have been removed from their homes and their parents and are in state custody. We delegate their care to our publicly appointed and paid judges who serve as their legal parents. And their seizure by the state and their subsequent fate is largely determined by laws enacted by our elected officials and funded by us through mandatory taxation. For those who politically cite “family values” as a basic moral tenet, the status that these children hold as a direct legal part of our “family” makes their treatment a basic test of the bona fides of that stated value.

Keywords: child welfare financing, child maltreatment, foster care, child protection, child abuse and neglect, family preservation, child protective services, title iv-e, adoption, guardianships, title iv-b, Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Child Welfare Act, lookback provision, revenue neutrality, c

JEL Classification: K36, K41

Suggested Citation

Fellmeth, Robert, A White Paper on America's Family Values: The Facts About Child Maltreatment and the Child Welfare Financing System (2018). San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 18-360. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3247322 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3247322

Robert Fellmeth (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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