Congress hammered out a major spending deal for fiscal year 2022 this month, and this week, President Joe Biden signed off on it. The $1.5 trillion package includes billions of dollars slated for child welfare, juvenile justice and youth and family homelessness.
See below to access Youth Services Insider’s handy federal spending chart, which includes the past five years of appropriations for dozens of key federal programs for youth and families. Also included are the percentage changes from fiscal year 2020, the last round of appropriations before the coronavirus pandemic.
Following are some notes on what jumped out to us from the deal.
Unaccompanied Children Budget Explodes
In 2014, we noted in our spending deal rundown that, surprisingly, the Republican-led House of Representatives had gone way above President Obama’s request for a program that was then called the Unaccompanied Alien Children (the word “alien” has since been removed). Obama asked for about $500 million, which is well above the $302 million set for the program in 2013 and $267 million in 2012. The spending deal included $868 million.
Nearly a decade later, the 2022 spending agreement includes just over $8 billion for the program, through which the Department of Health and Human Services shelters and then finds sponsors for youth from non-contiguous countries who arrive at our border seeking asylum. That is about $2 billion less than projected federal spending on foster care, adoption and guardianship this year.
The vast majority of youth in this program are Central Americans who arrive by traveling through Mexico, although the United States began to take on unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan after the American withdrawal there.
The department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement operates large intake shelters and also contracts with providers who are responsible for housing, educating and otherwise supporting children while they also look for a sponsor to release them to in the United States (often a parent or relative who is already here).
Part of this massive increase in spending will go to new post-release services to support youth after they have been moved out of the initial Unaccompanied Children shelters: it earmarks $558 million for legal services and child advocates.
But the majority of the increase can only be explained by anticipation that the number of children in the program is going to explode. The guess here is that Congress and the White House all expect the kind of surge of Central American youth that has become a steady occurrence in recent years, but also want to make room for possible American involvement in caring for Ukrainian children. With about 100,000 orphans, before the war started, Ukraine has one of the highest rates in Europe.
Youth Services Insider spoke with one person close to discussions on the child response in the region who said that many Ukraine orphanages are moving children into Moldova for now. They said conversations about American involvement could definitely ratchet up if the war continues for months or if Russia looks to occupy Moldova next (it is not a member of NATO, and has far less military capability than Ukraine).
Apprenticeships Continue to Rise
We all know the former president had an affinity for the TV show “The Apprentice,” but his administration also believed in increasing the federal investment in actual apprenticeship programs for young workers looking to connect with a trade. Federal funds for apprenticeships was at $68 million in 2017, Trump’s first year in office; by 2020, the pot had increased to $175 million.
The upward trend continues. Apprenticeships received a $235 million appropriation, a 34% increase since 2020. Youthbuild, another program connecting young people to the construction trade and other sectors, got $99 million, up about 5% since before the pandemic.
New Pilot Program for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care
The Department of Justice budget includes a small new demonstration program that will provide $5 million to four nonprofits for crisis stabilization, emergency shelter and other supports meant to prevent youth exiting foster care from becoming homeless.
The spending deal includes several million for various agencies to conduct new studies or reports. We will key in on two that seemed most interesting.
The Department of the Interior received $7 million to implement a “Native boarding school initiative” that will review the country’s shameful history of taking Native American children from their families and institutionalizing them. The end goal of the initiative is a report “on future efforts required to address this past wrong.”
Two things to keep in mind for context on this. First, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has already launched an investigation into unmarked graves at these now-shuttered boarding schools, so this initiative seems to further that work.
Second, the Canadian government is on the precipice of a $31.5 billion settlement with its First Nations over the nation’s foster care practices. That deal focused largely on the foster care practices in Canada after its own horrific boarding school era.
The other research funding that jumped out is a $1.5 million for the National Institute of Justice to gauge the feasibility of tracking “substantiated cases of sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment in youth serving organizations, to include organized sports, schools, and camps.”
Chalk this up as one of those small investments that might, one day, sprout into something very meaningful. Assuming “youth serving organizations” was to include residential care programs and private providers of foster care, what is on the table here is a national registry to identify workers who have been confirmed to mistreat children. Our guess is this feasibility study will assess the prospect of something along the lines of the Adam Walsh Act, which set up a national sex offender registry that was fueled by referrals over from state registries. But in that case, all states were already tracking sex offenders, albeit in various ways; this would have to be built from the ground up.
Lastly, Youth Services Insider is unaware of what research has been funded in the past out of the Department of Health and Human Services Account called Social Services and Income Maintenance Research … perhaps a reader hip to that world can enlighten us. But we do know there is about to be a lot more of that research, because the appropriation for this work jumped from its standard $7.5 million up to $44.5 million for 2022.
Youth Services Insider will try to do a deeper dive on this soon, but this is the first spending deal in more than a decade to include earmarks, a slang term for Congressionally directed projects within the discretionary money approved in the appropriations process. Think of a local YMCA getting $200,000 at the behest of the member of Congress who represents the district it is in; that’s an earmark.
On a quick pass through the list of earmarks for this year, there are hundreds of them, but probably far fewer than there were in the Wild West era of the mid-2000s before the Jack Abramoff scandal effectively ended the process.