Child welfare-related activities and services have complex sources of funding. Numerous funding streams and multiple agencies seek to support the children and families that are known to the child welfare system. At the state and local levels, this complexity sometimes means that policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and other stakeholders do not have a complete picture of child welfare financing, which is vital to their understanding of how to best provide needed services and supports to children and families. As a result, Colorado stakeholders decided to enhance understanding of the state’s child welfare financing landscape by contracting with Child Trends. Funding for this study was provided by the Zoma Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS).

As a first step, Child Trends analyzed Colorado’s data from the Child Welfare Financing Survey—a national survey conducted by Child Trends with support from Casey Family Programs and the Annie E. Casey Foundation—to identify state-specific funding sources and trends.[1] We also analyzed trends in the state’s child welfare population (e.g., trends in the number of children in care, use of family-based settings) and completed a scan of relevant recent news stories to understand contextual factors that may affect child welfare funding. We also reviewed existing reports and materials related to the state’s child welfare financing and conducted interviews and focus groups with stakeholders. These activities helped us examine the child welfare financing landscape in Colorado, identify challenges, and ultimately draw upon our knowledge of other states’ financing to propose recommendations.

The work for this report started shortly after the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (Family First Act). Although the Family First Act will affect child welfare financing and practice in many ways, the project sponsors intended for this report to analyze overall child welfare financing structures and systems, many aspects of which are either not affected or only minimally affected by the Family First Act. Therefore, this report provides an overview of Colorado’s child welfare financing landscape and presents nine recommendations for how the state can use additional or different funding sources or strategies to fund needed child welfare-related services and activities. While this report focuses on Colorado, other states can use the information presented to develop ideas for improving child welfare financing in their state.


Published By: National Child Welfare Financing Survey from Child Trends
Published Date: June 2019