The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented global health crisis that disrupted daily life and presented unique challenges to child welfare agencies across the United States. Child welfare agencies contended with complex decisions on how, when, and if to transition to providing remote services; how to address staffing shortages; the need for investment in personal protective equipment (PPE) for caseworkers and/or investment in remote work infrastructure; and how to address compounded difficulties in recruiting and retaining foster parents. Decisions were influenced by federal legislation that provided flexibility and resources to states to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic (see Appendix). Child welfare agencies across the country had to quickly respond to the evolving needs of both their staff and the children and families they serve by leveraging new federal funding streams and newly available flexibilities within existing streams.
While federal officials declared the public health emergency over in 2023, the pandemic response yielded important lessons and best practices related to child welfare financing that can be carried forward into non-pandemic times. The State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2020 Child Welfare Financing Survey, conducted by Child Trends with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs, provided some insight into this topic. In particular, the survey asked states about how the pandemic had impacted child welfare agency expenditures and whether it had contributed to any new or creative uses of funding. National findings are available in the SFY 2020 Child Welfare Financing Survey report.
For this brief—and to more fully explore the financing-related lessons that emerged during this time of great disruption—Child Trends identified and interviewed child welfare agency staff from five states that completed the SFY 2020 Child Welfare Financing Survey to discuss, in more detail, how they navigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child welfare financing. The brief summarizes lessons learned that emerged during the pandemic that can be carried forward into the future.
 Rosinsky, K., Fischer, M., & Haas, M. (2023). Child Welfare Financing SFY 2020: A survey of federal, state, and local expenditures. Child Trends. doi: 10.56417/6695l9085q. https://www.childtrends.org/publications/child-welfare-financing-survey-sfy2020
Haas, M., Rosinsky, K., & Ibarra, A.C. (2023). COVID-era child welfare financing lessons for a post-pandemic world. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/6822l9082y
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