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As it remains today, the financing structure for child welfare in the United States is convoluted with the intricacies of funding sources. Because of these complexities, employees of child welfare agencies find it difficult to understand where these funds come from, what requirements must be made to obtain them, and how these funds should be used appropriately. The inefficient use of these funds is a major problem in the child welfare system. This paper explains the general financing structure for child welfare, and in turn, develop provides a better understanding of the complex funding that supports child welfare services.

Perhaps the most confusing part of the child welfare financing structure is the different funding streams provided by the federal government and other agencies. This patchwork of funding is provided to states, community organizations, academic institutions, and other grantees to assist with the provision and execution of child welfare services. Along with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the most significant contributor of funding for child welfare, there are eight other federal agencies that also fund child welfare activities.

Because of the complex framework of the child welfare financing structure, I will focus on the major federal child welfare funding streams in my report for the sake of simplicity. For the most part, the major federal child welfare funding streams can be divided into two broad categories: dedicated funding streams (funds that are specifically designated for child welfare services), and non-dedicated funding streams (funds that are not specifically designated, but may be used for child welfare services). This paper addresses both sources of funding.


This study was supported in part by the SUNY Buffalo State Institute for Community Health Promotion Collaborative Research Initiative.