Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak


Child abuse and neglect has become a pervasive problem across the United States. Between 1985 and 1995 the foster care population in the United States grew by 79%, with costs soaring into the billions. During the mid-1990s, in an effort to address this issue, the federal government shifted from using a funding scheme identified with a traditional model of federalism to one identified with devolving federalism. In Michigan, the focus of this research, this shift in approaches occurred through the issuance of block grant funding for child welfare programming. The intent of this shift was to decentralize elements of the decision making process to allow local units of government to make decisions based on local needs. This research sought to determine if changing models of federalism, as defined by the type of funding scheme being employed, was an effective approach for improving child welfare outcomes. The research question to be answered then became, "Is devolving federalism an effective paradigm for improving child welfare outcomes?" To answer this question, a longitudinal research design that compared variance in the means of four defined child welfare outcomes over a 9-year period was used. That 9-year period was characterized by two distinct periods, one in which there was a traditional model of federalism in operation, and one in which the model was devolving federalism. The results of the study appear to be counterintuitive in that while there was a statistically significant change in all four of the child welfare outcomes being studied following the initiation of block grant funding, devolving federalism does not appear to be an effective paradigm for improving child welfare outcomes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access