A closer look at the Massachusetts House Budget Recommendations FY2013.

Eight basic questions about House Budget recommendations for the Department of Children and Families.

Is the spending above or below prior fiscal years?

The Historical Budget levels for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) shows a decrease of funds from FY2010 to FY 2012. Funding levels for DCF in FY2009 started at 836,478. An amount that was fair above the current funding. FY2012 (737,078) represented the lowest funding level since the organizational reform at the Executive Office of Children, Youth, and Family services. Nonetheless, The House of Representative in its budgetary recommendations has increased DCF Budget level almost to those reached in FY2010 (783,760).
After adjusting for inflation (Producer Price Index for intermediate products, 1.1%), we find that the increase represents 3.38%, which is equal to a net change of 25,690 after inflation adjustment. The following table shows the changes in DCF budget funding levels:  
Table #1.
FY2012 GAA.
FY2013 House 2.
Net increase
Net % Change
Inflation adjusted increase (Producer Price Index for intermediate goods, 1.1%)
% Change after inflation adjustment
2.       What did change?
The top five accounts that have the bigger proposed increase are the Family Support and Stabilization 12,1% increase; the DCF Local and Regional Administration of Services which has an increase of 9.8%; the Clinical Support Services and Operations which has a 8.8% change; the Foster Care Review account that brings a 6.4% increase; and finally the Social Workers for Case Management with an increase of 5.93%.
In terms of cuts, there is only a proposed reduction on the account denominated Placement Services for Juvenile Offenders. That reduction would be around 14.7% less than the previous fiscal year. Also Sexual Abuse Intervention Work account would have a decrease in funding if we consider inflation adjustments.   
The following table shows the greatest changes in DCF Budget:
Table #2.
Account name
FY2012 GAA
% Change
Clinical Support Services and Operations
Roca Retained Revenue for Cities and Towns
Foster Care Review
DCF Local and Regional Administration of Services
Sexual Abuse Intervention Network
Services for Children and Families
Family Support and Stabilization
Group Care Services
Child Welfare Training Institute Retained Revenue
Placement Services for Juvenile Offenders
Social Workers for Case Management
 Support Services for People at Risk of Domestic Violence
3.       Agency’s Mission:
“DCF is the Massachusetts State Agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from child abuse and neglect”[1]
4.       What are the cost drivers for this agency and how are they expected to change in the coming year?
Generally speaking, cost drivers for DCF are the dollar spent on what is called the Safety Net; also Wages and Salaries that represent roughly a 28% of the Budget; and in minor importance operating expenses and employees’ benefits. Graph #1 shows historical spending for four categories: Safety net, Wages and Salaries, Operating Expenses and Employee Benefits.  However, in a closer view to the accounts and reports we can identify ten specific cost drivers. Table # 3 shows specific cost drivers and how they are expected to change next fiscal year.
Graph #1.

Table # 3.
Specific Cost Driver
Expected change
Number of Consumers
The first quarter of 2012 showed a decrease in case count of 5% and a drop of consumer count of 6%. The annual count of consumer has dropped since 2009.
Time in Placement
Program goal
There will be an increase in reunification goal efforts. Therefore, we expect more spending.
Preferred language
Reduce cost due to a drop rate of costumers asking for a second language specialist.
Consumer’s age
Since 1992 the number of adult consumers has grown gradually.
Specialized services
Clinical support
Less bilingual specialists.
Social Workers
Less bilingual specialists.
Less bilingual specialists.
Decentralization-Regional Administration Offices
Decentralization keeps the same funding level. 
5.       Do all of the Budget items appear consistent with the agency’s mission?
At first glance, all the budget items are related to the agency’s mission. 
6.       What is the current political environment around this issue?
The political environment for DCF’s Mission has gained momentum now more than ever. Governor Deval Patrick has identified Youth Violence as one of his four second-term priorities, which means that public policy efforts aimed at protecting children and youth must get support from funding sources (A&F). DFC’s policies are strongly related to child and youth development. Therefore, If DCF embraces the premise that Youth Violence is a phenomenon resulting from early child abuse and early child homelessness, the Department may ask the Governor and the Legislature a substantial increase in its funds.
7.       What are the political implications for the funding level for DCF?
The political implications for funding level at DCF may be briefly expressed in two future scenarios.  The first one: decrease funding and the second increase funding. The former scenario may have consequences mainly on the next election cycle and on urban security. A decrease in DFC’s budget may affect the election cycle as long as Governor Patrick promised in campaign to reduce Youth Violence. If the Governor does not achieve such a goal, Youth Violence will become an issue against democrats in the next election cycle. Furthermore, with fewer financial resources Youth Violence will increase its rate, making it tougher to deal with socially and politically for democrats.    
The second scenario is the increase in funding level for DCF. By increasing funding level at DCF what is most likely to happen is a decrease in others accounts within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services -accounts and Departments that are very sensitive at the political arena. Veterans lobbies will put pressure for funds; the Department of Elder Affairs will claim Massachusetts has an aging population; the Office of Disabilities will also claim Massachusetts is heading toward a more unequal society. The following table shows the two scenarios.   
Table # 4.
Increase funding
Decrease funding
Less financial resources for Veterans.
Broken campaign promise (Democrats).
Less financial resources for Elder people.
Youth Violence increment.
Less financial resources for people with disabilities.
Fewer funds for providers.
Election cycle.
8.       Is the funding recommendation sufficient to meet needs?
Certainly the ideal fund level would meet at least 836,478, which was the starting level in FY2009. However, for the first time in the last three years the Agency will have an increase in its finances. Additionally, as long as the Agency has seen a drop in consumers in the first quarter of 2012, we might expect that trend to continue. Therefore, having the consumer rate reduced might mean DCF will have more dollar spent per person.

Categories: Policy

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