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Child welfare is a general term used to describe the wide range of services provided to families who are in danger of having children removed from the home due to abuse or neglect, or services for children who have been removed from the home. These services can include out-of-home placement in congregate care or home setting, adoption assistance payments, family reunification, independent living services, or protective services.

Child welfare services are the responsibility of the state, and each state has its own set of rules and philosophies that govern the child welfare system. How much states spend on each service depends on the state’s child welfare philosophy, as well as what services the state may have available when the child enters the system. Across all states in 2015, states spent over $20 billion on these child welfare services, with California’s spending accounting for over 20% of the U.S. total.

This report gives an overview of trends in child welfare spending between 2013 and 2015, the services included under the child welfare continuum, and a state-by-state look on how each state spends its child welfare dollars. The report includes an in-depth analysis of spending trends, and the number of children served in congregate care, family foster and kinship care, adoption and guardianship assistance, family support services, and administrative and non-direct services – at a national and individual state level. Where available, the report also includes a review of the change in per child spending over time nationally and state by state.

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