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 Week: Trump Adds $4.7 Trillion in Debt

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.

Chart of the Day: The Long Decline in Interest Rates

Wall Street slips, Dow posts biggest weekly loss of 2013
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.

The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”

Chart of the Day: Drug Price Plans Compared

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.

Increasing Number of Americans Delay Medical Care Due to Cost: Gallup

By The Fiscal Times Staff

From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”