By Cathy Kozlowicz

Correspondent

Partly due to the rise in opiates and other drug use, there is a marked increased of children in the welfare system, Director of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Aldred said at the Department of Health and Human Services meeting Jan. 16.

“The child welfare funding is not meeting the needs,” she said.

According to the Department of Children and Families, more than 80 percent of the open welfare cases are due to drugs and alcohol abuse. The number of children removed from homes due to drug and alcohol increased 119 percent from 577 to 1,261 from 2011 to 2016, she explained.

Aldred also said that a funding increase is needed to cover the increased families in the welfare system.

According to Aldred, the Wisconsin Counties Association is developing white papers for advocacy with the state legislature as this association deemed that the welfare system is in crisis. The priority topics include increasing the allocation for child welfare, increasing the allocation for income maintenance, increasing the funding for the birth to three program and standardizing case management rate for behavioral health services.

The DCF had a $5 million 2018 budget increase, which means the Children and Family Aids allocation is at $74,324,000.

According to a release from the Wisconsin Counties Association, the use of opiates and methamphetamines contribute to an increase in child welfare referrals, increase in out of home placement costs and unacceptable case loads for social workers are factors in the child welfare crisis.

From 2012 to 2018, the percentage of out of home care increased 39 percent. With 20 counties reporting an increase of 80 percent, 14 counties saw an increase of 100 percent or more.

Also according to the release, out-of-home costs have increased 18 percent, from $81.4 to $95.7 million across the state.

Furthermore, there are issues with the social workers and case managers in the children welfare system not having a manageable caseload and the increase of turnover in these staff.

Aldred said that turnover in staff members is something that she is aware of in Walworth County.

“It is a hard job, but you have to like it,” she said.

According to the release from the Wisconsin Counties Association, the requested action is a 30 million increase in the Children Families Aids Allocation and to regularly review the welfare resource needs.

Aldred said in the future she would like the case managers and the child welfare staff to write advocacy letters to the state legislature.

 

 
 

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