The proposed Senate budget resolution for the coming fiscal year, released March 18, includes a section that would pave the way for consideration of an evidence-based, spending-neutral child welfare reform bill later this year.
Section 306 of the resolution (full text below) would allow the Senate Budget Committee chairman to revise spending allocations for one or more future bills for the purpose of “replacing ineffective policies and programs with [an] evidence-based alternative that [will] improve the welfare of vulnerable children.”
The section is “spending-neutral,” meaning that any funding increases would need to be offset with spending cuts in other programs. Previous budgets have used the term “deficit-neutral,” which allowed revenue increases to pay for such changes.
The inclusion of the language in the budget resolution is considered a strong signal of support for Senate Republicans to move forward on a bill later this year, perhaps during the summer or fall.
According to a Republican staff member, such legislation could shift dollars away from long term care in group homes and an excessive reliance on psychotropic medications and increase funding for placements in family foster homes and for evidence-based programs such as home visiting.
If Congress adopts the proposed budget language, it will make passing such legislation easier, perhaps requiring only a simple majority rather than 60 votes and/or protecting it from certain procedural points of order, depending upon how the Senate chooses to proceed.
Historically, however, such legislation has usually been adopted along bipartisan lines, so the vote thresholds may be less important. Republican staff say a bill is likely to be considered later this year either way, regardless of whether the budget language is adopted.
The Senate budget language reads as follows:
SEC. 306. SPENDING-NEUTRAL RESERVE FUND FOR CHILD WELFARE.
The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to—
(1) child nutrition programs;
(2) replacing ineffective policies and programs with evidence-based alternative that improve the welfare of vulnerable children; or
(3) policies that protect children from sexual predators in our schools or communities;
without raising new revenue, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.
Update: The above language was included in the final budget resolution that was passed both houses of Congress (S. Con. Res. 11). It was included in Section 4306.
- Pay-for-Success in Child Welfare: A Case Study (February 6, 2015)
- Foster Care Innovation Initiative Charts a Different Path to Evidence (December 6, 2014)