The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Understanding the Impact of a Capped Allocation Environment in Child Welfare and Juvenile Probation

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 10:15 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Charlie Michael Ferguson, PhD, Researcher, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA

Several states have opted to restructure how child welfare services are financed on a broad scale using the Title IV-E Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Projects. In California in 2007, Alameda and Los Angeles Counties accepted a suspension of the Title IV-E entitlement and a five-year capped allocation in exchange for spending flexibility and the ability to generate and use savings for reinvestment in the child welfare (CW) and juvenile probation (JP) systems. The purpose of the study was to evaluate California’s Capped Allocation Project (CAP). The research questions were: What is the impact of a capped, flexible Title IV-E funding strategy on (a) the implementation and operations of the participating departments, (b) expenditures of the participating departments, and (c) outcomes for children and families?


The process study focused on the first research question using a multiple case study approach. Data were collected from a convenience sample of staff through focus groups and interviews at six points in time over the course of the five-year evaluation and were analyzed using a key concepts framework. The fiscal study and the outcome study were focused on the second and third research question, respectively, and used an interrupted time-series design to guide data collection. The fiscal study drew on county data to make pre-CAP and during-the-CAP comparisons regarding assistance (maintenance) and administration (services) expenditures, and to explore the possible shift from foster care services to non-foster care services. The outcome study used data from the California Child Welfare Performance Indicators Project and concentrated on the outcomes and indicators from the federal Child and Family Service Reviews. Graphic analysis of the indicators consisted of an assessment of their trend lines (five years pre-CAP and five years during-the-CAP).


Important considerations emerged in the areas of leadership, collaboration, fiscal, data, and planning and implementation. The CW departments reduced their assistance expenditures and increased their administration expenditures over time. The CW departments had fewer paid placement days in general and fewer in more expensive group home placements during the CAP. The CW departments shifted their expenditures from foster care services to non-foster care services. Savings were generated from a reduction in assistance expenditures and reinvested in new services and in expanding existing services. In general, the number of children in foster care declined during the CAP. However, findings for the safety, permanency, and stability indicators were mixed.

Conclusions and Implications:

The evaluation suggested that the departments’ use of the various characteristics of the CAP facilitated their pursuit of improved outcomes and expanded programs. Importantly, the program policy and practice philosophies of the CW departments coincided with the conditions necessary to operate in a capped allocation environment, supporting the notion that reform in program policy and practice should proceed operating in a capped allocation environment. The CAP did not have a sizeable impact on the structure and operations of the departments, except for the fiscal and data areas of operations. Additional research is needed to understand the link between funding, services, and outcomes.