Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2016, Child and Family Services Agency

DC Action testified during the budget oversight hearing for the Child and Family Services Agency. We showed our support for the agency's proposed FY16 budget as it reflects the CFSA's emphasis on prevention. Read our full remarks below: 

Testimony of Shana Bartley, Senior Policy Analyst

DC Action for Children

Agency Budget Hearing

Fiscal Year 2016

Child and Family Services Agency

Before the Committee on Health and Human Services

Council of the District of Columbia

April 28, 2015


Good morning Councilmember Alexander and members of the Committee on Health and Human Services. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget for the Child and Family Services Agency. My name is Shana Bartley, and I am a senior policy analyst at DC Action for Children.  

DC Action for Children (DC Action) provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth, to promote policies and actions that optimize child and family well-being.

DC Action is the home of DC KIDS COUNT, which tracks key indicators of child well-being in the DC neighborhoods where children live, learn and grow. We work closely with city agencies, the school system and service providers to share the most accurate and timely data, along with clear and accessible analysis. Our advocacy agenda is based on these data.

Through our KIDS COUNT data, we track indicators related to children in foster care and rates of child abuse and neglect. We continue to applaud CFSA’s prevention efforts to strengthen and stabilize families in an effort to keep children safely in their homes. The data reveal continued positive progress for our child welfare system. Using FY2013 data, we see that the victimization rate has decreased by 36% since FY2009.[1] Not only are fewer children in foster care placements[2], but there are also fewer referrals for substantiated rates of child abuse and neglect indicating a decrease in child maltreatment.[3]

While we celebrate this progress, there is much more work to do. The District has reduced rates of child abuse and neglect, yet our numbers are still double the national average. The most recent data from 2012 shows the national rate for child maltreatment was 9.0 victims per 1,000 children under age 18; the rate in the District was 19 per 1,000. [4] We must increase our efforts to keep children safe.

We are pleased to see a continued focus on prevention reflected in the agency’s proposed budget for FY2016 and hope that the agency will boost efforts to further decrease child abuse and neglect in the District.

Promoting Prevention through Investing in Community Partnerships

CFSA continues to leverage community-based resources as indicated by an $8.9 million increase to the Community Partnerships division. Through partnership with the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives, CFSA promotes the importance of community and neighborhood-based supports for strengthening and stabilizing families. The five Collaboratives are each independent non-profit organizations designed to be hubs for community-based resources; they organize a network of providers located in their catchment area in addition to providing case management and services that include fatherhood programs, job training/coaching and youth after care. Each Collaborative works to address the unique needs of the neighborhoods they support in order to prevent at-risk families from facing crisis. To embed resources in the community, CFSA co-locates internal staff and staff from the Department of Behavioral Health at each of the Collaboratives. Additionally, to increase access to other important services, CFSA gives funding to the Collaboratives to provide capacity-building grants for small community-based organizations serving target populations within their respective wards.

DC Action would like to thank Deputy Director for Community Partnerships Debra Porchia-Usher and her team for this emphasis on building neighborhood resources. This strategy can help to reduce barriers to accessing services for many families in need of supports.  We believe that by building up neighborhood support systems, we can better meet the needs of children and their families, ultimately improving outcomes and making DC a place where all children can grow and thrive.

Using Data to Drive Decisions and Planning

Recognizing that our city’s resources are not unlimited, wise investments that promise the greatest impact are necessary to strengthen prevention efforts. The most effective way to accomplish our goals is by responding to the needs of the most at-risk populations.  CFSA and the Collaboratives are working to align resources with family needs in the community and use individual, family and neighborhood level data to drive program planning and decision making. DC Action is proud to be a partner in this work by training frontline staff as well as leadership in data analysis using DC KIDS COUNT as a tool and example. This innovative partnership illustrates a shift in practice from being reactionary to proactive. We know that while it is difficult to measure the effects and savings, prevention is always best, especially when we can reduce stress on children. By working to anticipate needs and intervene early, our child welfare system can preserve more families and keep children safe.

We ask the Committee to preserve proposed funding in the Community Partnerships Division for FY16. We believe that CFSA continues to make tremendous advances in preventing child abuse and neglect through innovative partnerships and greater emphasis on community-based support systems. Increased investment in this area as proposed in the FY16 budget can only serve to bolster efforts to strengthen families.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to any questions that you may have. 

[1] Data via DC KIDS COUNT; compares victimization rate from FY2013 to FY2009.  Source: DC Child and Family Services Agency. Accessed at:,1119,1118,874,637/any/15087

[4] Data via National KIDS COUNT; Children who are confirmed by Child Protective Services as Victims of Maltreatment. Source: US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Accessed at:

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