The Woefully Distorted Federal Policies on Child Abuse

The Woefully Distorted Federal Policies on Child Abuse

By Eric Pianin

Here’s something just in from the world of grossly distorted government policy:

Every year, roughly 680,000 children are reported victims of neglect or abuse by their parents in this country – a tragic statistic reflective of troubling societal, psychological and economic problems. Even worse, 1,520 children died from maltreatment in 2013, nearly 80 percent of them at the hands of their own parents.

Related: Feds Blow $100 Billion Annually on Incorrect Payments

Federal and state authorities over the years have developed a large and costly system for reporting and investigating maltreatment, removing endangered children from their homes, and preventing and treating problems of parents and children.

But as a new study touted on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution concludes, the federal government provides states with far more money to support kids once they have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care than it provides for prevention and treatment programs to keep the kids out of foster homes in the first place.

And the disparity is startling.

Two of the largest grant programs in Title IV-B of the Social Security Act provide states with funding totaling around $650 million annually for “front end” services designed to prevent or treat parent and child problems that contribute to abuse and neglect. They address problems such as substance abuse, family violence and mental health issues.

Related: Time to Stop Social Safety Net Child Abuse

Yet another series of programs in Title IV-E of the Social Security law provides states with open-ended funding that totaled about $6.9 billion in 2014. Those funds pay almost exclusively for out-of-home care for children from poor families, along with the administrative and training expenses associated with foster care, adoption, and guardianship.

That’s a 10 to 1 disparity in funding for the two efforts – one to try to hold families together and the other to move children out of their homes and into foster care. 

“Congress has the opportunity to change the funding formula under Title IV of the Social Security Act so that states have the flexibility to put money where it will be most effective at keeping at-risk children safe, ensuring that they have a permanent home, and promoting their well-being,” wrote Ron Haskins, Lawrence M. Berger and Janet Currie, the authors of the study.

In their policy brief, “Can States Improve Children’s Health by Preventing Abuse and Neglect,” Haskins, a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings, Currie of Princeton University and Berger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, write that revising the grant programs could improve the welfare of children who are at risk of abuse or neglect.

This is something else that lawmakers might consider later this year when they begin to focus on disability insurance and other programs within the Social Security law.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”