Congress needs to reform funding for Child Abuse, Neglect

Oklahoma  —  It’s encouraging to see that despite budget challenges, Oklahoma is making it a priority to invest in the needs of our state’s abused and neglected children.

But wouldn’t it be better if the need weren’t so great, for children in state custody or for the elderly and disabled? Some good news is that reform in Washington could move us closer to helping at-risk-youth by investing in prevention.

Federal funding shortchanges prevention efforts that could help parents manage financial distress, mental health, substance abuse, and other abuse and neglect risk factors. Today, the federal government pays $4 on foster care for every $1 on prevention.

Federal foster care funding itself is insufficient, covering less than half of eligible kids. Underfunding of prevention efforts will only drain this already shallow funding pool.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is developing legislation to invest in prevention. His plan would allow federal funds to help at-risk kids before they enter foster care, and it directs increased investments to prevention initiatives with proven track records of effectiveness.

The likely result: stronger families, safer children and better value for taxpayers.

Foster parents offer a wonderful gift to children facing terrible circumstances. However, getting ahead of the problem means investing in prevention. If Oklahoma wants better outcomes for kids, Oklahoma’s leaders in Congress must reform funding for child abuse and neglect.