President Barack Obama submitted his budget for fiscal year 2015 yesterday, including billions of dollars in funding for youth services related to child welfare, juvenile justice, job training and education.
Readers can access the Chronicle of Social Change‘s complete chart of the youth services spending by clicking here. The chart includes four figures for nearly 100 youth-related spending programs:
- Obama’s fiscal 2015 request
- The fiscal 2014 appropriation by Congress for youth programs, if there was one
- Obama’s fiscal 2014 request
- Obama’s fiscal 2010 request
Here are a few of the most significant changes or developments included in the 2015 budget request:
Curbing Psychotropic Use on Foster Youth: Big Number, No Payment Plan
It has been five years since the suicide of 7-year-old Florida boy Gabriel Myers sparked national focus on the absurdly high rate at which foster youth are subscribed psychotropic drugs. It has been three years since the Government Accountability Office recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issue some guidance to states on the subject, and HHS began asking states to report on psych med prescriptions.
In his request, the president calls for up to $750 million in spending aimed at curbing psychiatric prescriptions to youths in care. Click here to read about the proposal and the events leading up to it.
The funding seems well-aimed: help get states started spending money on safer and more effective mental health strategies, and reward the states that start to show declines in prescriptions by employing those strategies.
Part of the plan would be carried out by the Administration for Children and Families, part by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. None of it, however, is currently paid for.
Obama paints a vague outline of the plan out in his request, but does not offer up any spending cuts to pay for it. Under the current “PayGo” rules, such a plan would need to be budget neutral or paid for with offsetting savings somewhere else. Without an answer to that the whole thing is likely a nonstarter, so a huge factor here will be the interest of influential members in both chambers.
It is worth noting that four of the five Senators who requested the GAO report on this are still in office, and three of them are Republicans. They are: Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
New Normal for Unaccompanied Minors Program
In fiscal 2013, Congress approved just over $300 million for Unaccompanied Minors, the HHS program that fuels services to immigrant children who enter the country alone. There was already growing recognition that there were more children entering the country than the program could afford to help at that level.
President Obama asked for $500 million in 2014. Congress gave him $868 million. So for 2015, Obama asked for another $868 million.
You can click here to read our more detailed analysis of exactly what is going on with this population and why the appropriation skyrocketed as it did. What’s worth noting here is that Obama’s 2015 request confirms that the administration is comfortable with this program expanding.
At least one provider of services to unaccompanied minors, funded through this program, speaking on condition of anonymity with the Chronicle, suggested wariness about the growth of it.
Paying for Success
In 2014, Congress for the first time set aside money specifically to fund “Pay for Success” ventures, also known as social impact bonds. It was a $7.5 million carve-out of funding under the Second Chance Act, which supports efforts to assist offenders returning to the community.
The administration, which has in the past advocated in budget requests and funding notices for such projects, jumped on the appropriators’ interest. Obama requests $115 million for Second Chance Act overall, and proposes to increase the Pay for Success portion of it to $30 million.
It was not that long ago that the administration proposed to effectively end the system of rewarding states with grants for compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The president’s 2012 proposal initially included a plan to end that, and make compliance with the act a ticket into the competition for big, game-changing grants to be awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Now, the president is requesting restoration of the JJDPA funding lines after Congress gave OJJDP yet another financial buzz cut. The 2014 appropriations included just $65 million for the act’s three main accounts: state formula grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG), and delinquency prevention grants. Zero of those dollars actually went to JABG.
Obama proposes more than double that amount, $132 million, for 2015. He would restore JABG with $30 million in base block grants, along with a $10 million realignment incentive program for states willing to reduce incarceration space and invest the savings into community-based interventions.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of the Chronicle of Social Change