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Bureau of Child Welfare
Young, David W.
Functional Area(s):
   Finance/Financial Management
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Pages: 4
Teaching Note: Available. 
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First Page and the Assignment Questions:

The number of adoptions has been declining over the past two years, and represents an increasingly smaller percentage of children in foster care. We’ve been emphasizing the importance of placing children in adoptive homes when the situation warrants such a move, so I’m uncertain as to why the private agencies that we contract with for the delivery of social services, aren’t making a greater effort to do so.

The speaker was Henry Brown, Special Assistant to the Director of the Bureau of Child Welfare, was evaluating the results of the Bureau’s activities in its Adoption Program. He was evaluating the results of the Bureau’s activities in its adoption program. As indicated in Exhibit 1, the city’s child welfare system provided care and delivered services to some 29,000 children at any given time. Between 8,000 and 10,000 children entered the child-care system during the course of a year and slightly fewer were discharged, so that the total population increased gradually from year to year.


Although the city was legally responsible for all children in its care, it had few programs and facilities of its own. Thus, the vast majority of children were under the direct supervision of some 80 private (or voluntary, as they were sometimes called) child-care agencies. Most of these children resided with individual families in foster homes; the remaining children were distributed among facilities such as institutions, group homes, maternity shelters, and so forth.

The private agencies were funded by the city according to a reimbursement formula that was designed to cover approximately 85 to 90 percent of their reimbursable costs. The reimbursement for ongoing programs, such as foster care, was on a per diem basis; that is, the agency received a predetermined amount per day for each child in care. The amount of payment varied according to the type of program (foster home, group home, institution, and so on). A variety of costs either were not reimbursable or, in the case of adoption, were reimbursed by means of a one-time fee. Payments made to agencies, regardless of whether they were per diem or a one-time fee, came from the city’s Charitable Institutions Budget and totaled some $800 million per year.

Children entered the child-care system for a variety of reasons.In some instances, the child’s parents requested placement because they were unable to provide adequate care in the home. In others the child entered by means of a court mandate for reasons such as neglect, abuse, delinquency, or potential delinquency. Although some children remained in care for only a few months, many others remained in the system for several years, often until they reached the age of 21 and were no longer eligible for child welfare services

A variety of changes had taken place over the past 10 years which affected not only the relationship between the city and the agencies, but the whole pattern of child care. One such change was in the characteristics of the children in care. Over the past five years, for example, the mix of children in the system had shifted rather dramatically, such that there were now proportionately more older children and more children who were in care because of their own emotional and behavioral problems. As a result of this change, many agencies—and the city as well—had been left with inappropriate programs and service-delivery capabilities. One result was that many children were residing in programs that were not appropriate to their needs. . . .


  1. What is your assessment of Dr. Brown’s evaluation methodology? How might it have been improved?
  2. Assuming the validity of the data he has gathered, what are the next steps he should take in the evaluation? What changes, if any, would you recommend the Bureau make in its reimbursement policies? In its other policies?