More Can Be Learned and Done About the Well-Being of Children

MWD-76-23: Published: Apr 9, 1976. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1976.

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Public concern and congressional interest prompted GAO to review the federal child welfare services programs conducted by the Social Rehabilitation Service of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). States presently receive federal funds to establish, strengthen, and extend child welfare services. In addition, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) provides services to children deprived by neglect, desertion, and the death or unemployment of a parent. Since 1958, child welfare services have been affected by changes in the federal law. Services to predominantly rural areas have been eliminated. Research on child welfare has been conducted, and a date when states must meet improved child welfare services was established.

No means were found by GAO to assess the extent of change in and the adequacy of a child's situation under the child welfare program. A review of 724 case files showed that several obstacles hindered the accomplishments of the child welfare agencies. Caregivers were either unaware or avoided services provided by welfare agencies. Complex decisions affecting a child's welfare were often made by caseworkers without a specialist's assistance. Problem adolescents often did not receive the required care because suitable facilities were lacking. At the federal level, HEW had not evaluated the well-being of children adequately and was not informing the states of the results of child care research and development projects.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the child welfare program, a system must be developed for evaluating the well-being of children and how they are affected by federal programs. An information system for recording and reporting the major obstacles to child welfare across the country would help focus research projects on major problems. The knowledge gained from the research should then be disseminated among state and local welfare agencies. Congress might consider requiring HEW to submit biennial reports on the well being of America's children. The reports should include the impact of federally supported programs and recommend any needed changes.

    Agency Affected:


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