As we work to find the right balance of maintaining responsible government spending while preserving critical programs for those who are truly in need, I applaud the latest efforts from the Department of Public Welfare. Their innovative and cost-effective funding approaches are moving Pennsylvania in the right direction.
The most recent example of this is the department's new child welfare demonstration project, which provides flexible funding for programs serving Pennsylvania's at-risk children. The money will be used to improve the department's efforts to engage the children's families, better assess children's and families's needs, and develop and expand effective services.
Allegheny, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Philadelphia and Venango counties, which house 45 percent of Pennsylvania's foster care population, have chosen to participate in the demonstration project.
Strengthening families so that children can thrive is a logical approach. However, traditionally, this project's funding stream was targeted for out-of-home placement costs for children in the foster care system even though government and advocates alike now know that safely keeping children with their own families provides better results.
We know that children who come into the child welfare system often face many struggles beyond their youth. The new flexibility in federal funds will allow the department to change the results for these at-risk children and their families.
Pennsylvania's children deserve our very best effort -- their future, and Pennsylvania's future, depends on it. The Department of Public Welfare's renewed focus on more effective child welfare services, balanced with a more flexible approach to funding, is a sound investment that addresses the needs of Pennsylvania's children and taxpayers.