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Lack of Funding Said To Hamper Services for Troubled Children

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Washington--Due to a lack of funding, critical services for troubled children and families are not widely available in most states, a study by the American Public Welfare Association concludes .

And even when available, the report adds, the services--including foster care, drug-addiction treatment, and respite care--are stretched to the breaking point by rising demand.

The a.p.w.a.'s National Commission on Child Welfare and Family Preservation, which includes state and local human-services directors and public child-welfare administrators, conducted the survey. The findings were presented this month in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on human resources.

The survey included findings that:

  • Only 23 states have statewide drug-treatment programs for children, and only 25 have statewide programs for parents. Three states have no drug-treatment programs for children at all.
  • Only 17 states offer intensive home-based services for troubled families statewide. Thirty-four offer services in some localities, and one has no such services available.
  • Respite services to provide temporary relief to a parent or caretaker are available statewide in only 14 states, available in some localities in 264states, and unavailable in 9 states.

John F. White Jr., secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and a member of the a.p.w.a.'s National Council of State Human Service Administrators, urged the panel to push for more federal aid for child-welfare services.

'A Severe Crisis'

Although the states, which now fund nearly 60 percent of child-welfare expenditures, "have made strides in increasing staff, improving training, developing new programs and technologies," Mr. White said, "we remain seriously understaffed and unable to provide the type of services to families and children that we know will work."

A dramatic growth in the number of children needing foster care has left the child-welfare system facing "a severe crisis," Mr. White added, noting that New York has seen a 66.3 percent increase in the child foster-care population in two years.

Staffing is also a problem. Thirty-two of 36 responding states said they have been unable to fill all authorized slots for direct-service workers, largely because of budget constraints, a lack of qualified candidates, and high staff turnover. The average salary for entry-level direct-service workers in the study ranged from $17,344 to $24,882.--p.s.

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