Less than two months into the 2020 fiscal year, Rhode Island’s budget office is anticipating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families will need to request additional funding from the legislature. 

DCYF’s budget for the 2020 fiscal year is $228.6 million. That’s only slightly more than the previous year’s budget of $227.9 million, which DCYF was projected to overspend by $18.3 million. (The final tally of state spending in the last fiscal year is set to be released September 3rd.) The department cited an unexpected influx of 350 new kids into state care and a higher number of costly group home and residential treatment placements driving spending up. 

Department of Administration Director Michael DiBiase said the Office of Management and Budget is already worried about similar overspending this year.  

“I think it's clear from the level of spending that happened in the last fiscal year and the fact that the FY20 budget is millions of dollars less in resources that it is going to be very challenging for the department to meet its budget,” DiBiase commented.  

Speaking earlier this month, outgoing DCYF Director Trista Piccola agreed that keeping spending within this year’s budget will not be easy, saying, “I think the budget this year is going to be a challenge.”

A team led by Office of Management and Budget Director Jonathan Womer is working with DCYF to cut costs within the department. 

DiBiase said the budget office sees contracts with outside providers as the biggest strain on the spending. But he added that the state has a legal obligation to provide services to all children and families who qualify. 

“We take very seriously the fact that we should be meeting those budgets,” DiBiase said. “But at the same time we're not going to put Rhode Islanders at risk. So we will ask for additional funding if necessary. In DCYF's case we expect that will be likely.”

Lawmakers have criticized Piccola for not accurately representing the department’s spending needs during budget hearings for the current fiscal year, instead announcing a plan earlier this month to request an additional $1.8 million dollars to hire 23 new front-line workers.