Child welfare financing

Child welfare systems rely on a variety of federal, state, and local funding sources to keep children safe, strengthen families, and support communities. Each jurisdiction combines funding sources in different ways to administer programs and services. Some funding streams, such as Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) are dedicated solely to child welfare while others, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid, can be used to fund a broad range of services and supports for families across the child and family well-being continuum.

With each funding stream comes a unique set of goals, allowable uses, eligibility rules, and reporting requirements. This leads to a complex funding environment that is challenging to operationalize and contributes to variation in services and delivery approaches across jurisdictions.

Though states continue to spend a relatively small proportion of funding on upstream prevention services, growing emphasis on systems transformation and the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act have the potential to shift child welfare funding in that direction going forward. For more information about how funds are used across states, see the Child Trends Child Welfare Financing Survey.


Cheerful african mother and indian father playing with son at home. Cute boy enjoying sitting on father shoulder while looking at camera. Middle eastern family having fun together on the sofa at home.

How did Connecticut expand Family-Based Recovery using a social impact bond?


A teen boy carrying his younger brother on the back and smiling at the camera in a horizontal waist up shot outdoors.

What are some of the foundational elements, strategies and opportunities for child welfare financing?


Group of kindergarten kids lying on the grass at park and relax with smiling

What keeps community-based organizations from contracting with child welfare agencies, and what can be done about it?


Please explore the related resources below and at Questions from the field to learn more about financing and funding in the child welfare system.