For more than two decades, the Children’s Bureau has awarded waivers to help states create new knowledge about innovative and effective child welfare practices. Through these waivers, states may spend federal funds in ways not normally allowed under current U.S. laws and regulations.
Six states have received waivers that allow them to employ flexible funding to support child welfare efforts—typically by distributing federal money to local jurisdictions based on state-specific formulas. In this report, JBA synthesizes results from evaluations of grantees’ demonstration projects.
Select Process Evaluation Findings
- Evaluation findings from Florida and Indiana suggest that the availability of flexible funds has increased the number and diversity of services available to at-risk children and families.
- The most common forms of case-specific goods and services purchased with flexible funds across all states were food and clothing, rental/housing assistance, utility assistance, other household goods (e.g., cribs), transportation assistance/car repairs, child care, and legal assistance (e.g., attorneys’ fees to process a transfer of legal custody).
- Common examples of new and expanded programs supported by flexible funds included family-centered case management models, supervised visitation programs, kinship/aftercare support, intensive placement prevention services, family finding and engagement programs, and respite care.
- Most states implemented a number of changes to fiscal policies and procedures in response to their waiver demonstrations. In some states, the waiver demonstrations were associated with significant changes in child welfare case practices.
- Waivers were perceived as strengthening partnerships among state and local child welfare agencies, other government entities, community-based organizations, and contracted service providers. They were also credited with strengthening reform initiatives that developed independently from the waiver demonstrations.
Select Outcome and Cost Evaluation Findings
- Statistically significant positive findings were observed in some states in the categories of placement prevention, exits to permanency, placement duration, and foster care re-entry. However, there were no consistent positive patterns observed across states in any major outcome area.
- Recurrence of maltreatment was no higher overall among children assigned to experimental counties/groups or over time; this suggests that children with access to waiver-funded services were at least as safe as those without access.
- Available fiscal data indicated that states largely succeeded in their efforts to increase revenues available for a range of child welfare services.
- Many states observed a decline in overall foster care maintenance costs since implementation of their demonstrations, with corresponding increases in spending on non-placement programs and services.