This article presents early findings in a two-year mixed-methods study examining whether the source (federal/state/local) or type (restricted/flexible) of funding impacts quality outcome measures linked to mental health of children in foster care. The study focuses on three quality outcomes that are closely linked to the mental health of the children served by the child welfare system: days in placement, days awaiting adoption, and recurrent maltreatment.
The authors use community-based participatory research to analyze 10 years of county-based financial and child welfare outcome data for both quantitative and qualitative analyses. In Ohio, approximately half of the 88 counties have a dedicated local tax levy for child welfare services, providing flexible funding at the local level. From 1997 to 2005, the federal government also provided flexible federal funding via Title IV-E waivers to fourteen “ProtectOhio” Counties and to an additional four counties through 2009.
Early findings indicate that flexible funding is linked to reduced median days in care and days awaiting adoption. The study further indicates that community based participatory research is particularly helpful in designing the research questions that will provide relevant data for policy reform.