El Paso County, CO, March 23, 2017 – Efforts at the state level to maintain critical child protection funding recently yielded results. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) recently announced plans to backfill money counties were expecting to lose with general fund dollars, maintaining the approximately $350 million in child welfare block grant appropriations.
El Paso County Commissioners and the El Paso County Department of Human Services Executive Director Julie Krow and others from Colorado’s 64 counties highlighted the need and risks associated with trimming such funding.
“I’m incredibly grateful that Sen. Kent Lambert took this on and worked to make sure that Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens are made whole. It’s crucially important that we protect the children served by the child welfare allocation program,” said Commissioner Mark Waller. “However, people need to consider that this is just a recommendation from the JBC. It is so much better to have that recommendation than to not have it, and to have to ask for an amendment to the budget on the floor of the House or the Senate.”
Earlier this year, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recommended withholding $5.6 million in federal funds from the Child Welfare appropriation. The initial recommendation by CDHS was to cover a shortfall in indirect costs, funding typically used on items such as facility expenses and staff funding. That holdout would have also reduced the 20 percent local match, which meant that counties faced a reduction of about $7 million to child welfare budgets. El Paso County DHS would have faced a $921,432 reduction in funding. That funding is used by counties to pay for staff focused on child protection and out-of-home placements, as well as contracts with partner agencies for services to families.
“Child protection efforts are critical to making sure our communities are safe,” Commissioner Stan VanderWerf said. He recommended that Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) develop a letter to be signed by willing county commissioners across Colorado who would not be able to attend the state’s Child Welfare Hearing in late February. Those that signed this letter were attending the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.
“I am extremely pleased with the hard work done by our staff and others throughout the state that resulted in full funding of the child welfare program,” Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez said. “It is a valuable program that ensures the care and safety of the most vulnerable of our community – our children.”
El Paso County DHS is one of the busiest in the state, regularly handling more referrals and assessments than the next largest County (Denver). In 2016, the agency handled 15,665 referrals, and 6,310 assessments. Those numbers reflect a steady increase in recent years.
“A decrease in funding would have forced some very difficult decisions,” said El Paso County DHS Executive Director Julie Krow. “We appreciate the dedicated efforts of our commissioners and others to get the word out about the importance of this funding to the children and families we serve. The decision by the Joint Budget Committee is a relief. County staff members are focused on protecting children and helping families, and it is encouraging to know that so many people support this important work.”
El Paso County DHS is not alone in the challenge of handling increasing child abuse and neglect calls. A 2014 workload study commissioned by the Legislative Audit Committee concluded that 574 additional full-time caseworkers and an additional 122 related supervisor positions were needed across the state in the child welfare system to keep children and families safe. The General Assembly has shown steadfast support in addressing the staffing deficit. Over the last two years, it has provided funding that has allowed counties to hire approximately 184 child welfare staffers, including 27 in El Paso County.
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El Paso County Department of Human Services
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