Kelly Brooks is CSAC’s Legislative Representative for Health and Human Services. For more, visit The County Voice.

When the Governor used his blue pencil before signing the 2009-10 budget, he drew a line right through the future of foster youth by vetoing $80 million and his proposed 2010-11 budget continues the cut.

CSAC is part of a broad coalition – including foster youth, foster parents, providers, labor, social workers, and welfare directors – that is advocating to restore the child welfare services budget. Today the Senate Budget Committee is hearing the child welfare services budget Yolo County Supervisor and CSAC 2nd Vice President Mike McGowan will be testifying on behalf of counties. His following remarks underscore the real danger to children that these cuts create:

Counties, along with the state, share the legal and moral responsibility for caring for abused and neglected children.

For years, we have struggled with woefully inadequate funding to meet the state and federal government’s expectations for keeping children out of harm’s way. The children in our communities are the ones who suffer from this lack of funding.

In addition, counties have all the legal liability when bad outcomes occur in the child welfare system. Our goal is to keep our children safe, but we can’t do that without the workers and resources that we need.

We are already seeing the effects across the state of the CWS cut. Social workers, with caseloads that are too high, are making life and death decisions every day. They do not have adequate support services to offer to families in crisis or at risk. Foster children and foster parents have fewer supports, too. In short, children and youth are in harm’s way.

I have nothing but empathy for your position as legislators. My colleagues and I make difficult choices every Tuesday. We face the people affected by our decisions every day in our communities.  And over the last few months, County Boards of Supervisors across the state have made tremendously difficult decisions that will hurt children due to a lack of state funding.

This week is County Government week. Counties are educating the public and the legislature about what we do. Counties, because of the diversity of services we provide, are very much tied to the fate of the state. The fact is that the state has been underfunding, and counties have been cutting, human services programs for years.

But there are some services that you cannot risk cutting to the bone – ones that help keep abused and neglected safe. Because of this, some counties, faced with the prospect of cutting services and endangering children, put overmatch into the child welfare system to make up for state underfunding. But today, with county coffers close to empty, that amount is declining.

Our basic job in state and local government is the protection and safety of our residents, especially the most vulnerable among us: our children. If we can’t maintain that promise and keep those services, then why are we all here?

For more, visit The County Voice, a place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.