Agency Budget Oversight Hearing, Fiscal Year 2019, Child and Family Services Agency

Testimony of Shana Bartley, Acting Executive Director

DC Action for Children

 

Agency Budget Oversight Hearing

Fiscal Year 2019

Child & Family Services Agency

 

Before the Committee on Human Services

Council of the District of Columbia

 

April 18, 2018

 

Good morning, Councilmember Nadeau and members of the Committee on Human Services. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).  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 envision a District of Columbia where all children, regardless of their race/ethnicity, family’s income or zip code, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.

 

DC Action also serves on the Home Visiting Council with other advocates, community-based providers and agency leaders. This council works to strengthen home visiting in the District by building a cross-sector network of support for programs, advocating for resources and funding for their stability and growth and collaborating to address system-wide challenges to the implementation of home visiting services. We are grateful for Director Brenda Donald’s leadership and CFSA’s commitment to strengthening families and investment in home visiting as a strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect.

 

CFSA plays an important role in supporting DC children, youth and their families. We acknowledge and support CFSA’s emphasis on prevention and their commitment to strengthening and stabilizing families so that children can remain safely at home (when possible and appropriate). We recognize that changes in the federal landscape and the end of the Title IV-E waiver present uncertainties for the agency. These changes require CFSA to make difficult decisions regarding investments and take thoughtful and deliberate action to ensure that the most efficient and effective programs continue to receive funding.

 

During FY17 and FY18, CFSA was one of two local government agencies funding early childhood home visiting for expecting parents and families with young children under age 5. We believe CFSA’s investment in home visiting supported larger efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect by implementing a proven family support strategy for families with a vulnerable population of children. During FY17, young children under age 3 accounted for about one-third of removals.[1] Understanding the needs of infants and toddlers can be challenging, and while it can be exciting for many, this time period can also be difficult and overwhelming for some parents. Home visitors provide valuable education, support and coaching to parents on parent-child attachment, brain development, health and nutrition, and early learning, and the evidence-based programs implemented by CFSA have been proven to contribute to reductions in child abuse and neglect. Home visiting is an essential strategy within the early childhood system that works to strengthen families and ensure children have the foundation they need for future success.  This is why we were disheartened to learn that CFSA would no longer fund home visiting beginning in FY19.

 

Given the importance of home visiting in the lives of families who participate in these programs, we would like to ensure that these funding changes will not result in the loss of services for families currently enrolled in CFSA-funded programs. For FY 2019, DC Health is the only DC agency that continues to fund home visiting services – OSSE and CFSA both funded home visiting programs until recently. However, DC Health’s programs restrict services to families residing in Wards 5,7, and 8. This prevents families living in other parts of the city from receiving a valuable resource. Furthermore, CFSA funds unique and innovative programs like Healthy Babies’ Project, Inc., Mary’s Center’s Father-Child Attachment program and Community Life Services’ Home Visiting Program that do not fit into the current scope of DC Health’s home visiting programs and serve families across the District. The families currently enrolled in these programs may lose access to a vital support without careful and thoughtful cross-agency planning. The DC Home Visiting Council would be glad to support such planning efforts.

 

Additionally, this consolidation will require a larger local investment. Based on DC Health’s FY17-18 Performance Oversight responses and our work on the DC Home Visiting Council, we know that in FY 2017, both federally-funded DC Health programs exceeded federal requirements for enrollment for most of the year. Additionally, the smaller, locally-funded program was nearly or fully enrolled based on the number of home visitors on staff for all but one quarter.[2]  While historical data indicates that DC Health’s home visiting programs were once underutilized, current data show that families want and benefit from home visiting.  Without additional dollars to support home visiting, even families that fit DC Health’s eligibility criteria may not be able to access services since current programs have limited availability.

 

Earlier this month, DC Action along with 15 of our partner organizations sent members of the Council of the District of Columbia a letter requesting $2,000,000 in local funds to support home visiting programs at DC Health. However, we sent this letter prior to programs learning about the CFSA’s funding cuts. We ask now that this Committee and the Committee on Health work to invest $2,000,000 plus CFSA’s funding amount for FY18 in home visiting so that no families lose access to services.

 

Given the important role home visiting plays in CFSA’s strategy to support expecting parents and families with young children, DC Action makes the following recommendations:

 

  1. CFSA and DC Health work together to ensure that families currently receiving home visiting through CFSA-funded programs can remain in their program through completion.
  2. The Committee on Human Services and the Committee on Health work together to ensure that DC Health has sufficient funding and staffing to support existing programs.
  3. CFSA works with DC Health and the DC Home Visiting Council to ensure strong referral processes are in place so that CFSA-identified families have access to home visiting services.
  4. DC agencies including DC Health, CFSA, the Department of Health Care Finance, and the Office of the State Superintendent for Education come together with the Home Visiting Council to analyze the current state of local funding for home visiting, the contributions home visiting makes in outcomes of interest for each agency, and the future of home visiting funding in the District.

 

­­We are grateful for CFSA’s efforts to support children and keep them safe.  Thank you again for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

[1] Children under age 3 amounted to 111 out of 346 removals. Data found: Child & Family Services Agency. (2018). FY17-18 Performance Oversight Responses: Question 15. Retrieved from: http://dccouncil.us/files/user_uploads/budget_responses/cfsa_Part1.pdf

 

[2] Department of Health 2018 Performance Oversight Responses. Retrieved from http://www.dccouncil.us/files/user_uploads/budget_responses/doh_Part2.pdf

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