DCYF funding has been sliding for years, now less than it was a decade ago

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  (WPRI) — While the state’s overall budget has grown by about 33 percent over the past 10 years, the Target 12 Investigators have discovered the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) is receiving millions of dollars less than it was in 2008.

A review of the agency’s budget showed DCYF’s enacted budget was just under $150 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, when the state’s budget totaled $6.9 billion.

DCYF’s budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year is just under $146 million, about $4 million less than 10 years ago. When adjusted for inflation, an agency response to our questions indicates that’s almost $30 million less for children and families who are served now.

The state’s current budget is slated to cost taxpayers $9.2 billion, $2.3 billion more than 2008.

According to DCYF spokesperson Kerri White, while the types and categories of service have changed over the years, data shows the agency is “serving the same or slightly more children and families” compared to 10 years ago.

DCYF Director Trista Piccola said while the state-funded share of the budget has declined, the department continues to be thoughtful and strategic with its array of services.

“We always aim to maximize our cost savings while also providing the best possible care and outcomes for our children and families,” Piccola said in a statement.

The agency’s cut of the state budget reached a high of almost $159 million in 2010, a year after a 10-year low of just over $137 million in the financially strapped year of 2009.

One issue that’s expected to potentially strain DCYF’s budget surfaced this week, when the state reached a settlement to put an end to a 2007 class action lawsuit.

The agreement, filed in federal court Monday after it was signed by state leaders last week, called for improvements in 12 areas, including enforcing monthly visits by caseworkers and complying with new targets for timeliness of abuse investigations.

White said the legal cost from the settlement was estimated to reach $1.2 million, but there are no projections for how much the improvements are going to cost.

Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau can be reached at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau