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Headshot of author Mary TwomeyNew Funding Shines a Light on the Path Forward for APS

by Mary Twomey, MSW, Consultant

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day logoI went to bed the night before Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (the Act) worried that the federal bill would not reflect the important issue of adult maltreatment. After all, our field had been at this point many times before only to be disappointed at the last minute. I tossed and turned that night wondering if our collective luck was about to change.

And change it did! On December 27, 2020 the field rejoiced when the Act was signed into law.  It allocated $100 million for “elder justice” activities. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) apportioned over $93 million of that for state APS systems marking the first time in U.S. history that there was dedicated federal funding for state APS systems.  Long after this type of federal funding for APS is a regular part of the federal budget, we will still remember December 27, 2020 as a critical turning point in the field’s development.

On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2021, we celebrate the new funding and ponder what it means to APS today, and what it will mean for its future.

When we asked APS Administrators what the new funding meant to them, they responded with words like “validation” and “recognition.” This resonated for me. I think this dedicated federal funding means that the work of APS is finally being acknowledged. There is now awareness that APS work involves clients with serious and complex issues, and heavy caseloads, and not enough funding. It acknowledges how you’ve been scrappy and creative with what you had even as you fought for more on behalf of your clients and workers. It recognizes that you have volunteered to serve on local or state multi-disciplinary teams, or on national committees, or on research projects because you knew it would add value to your profession. It acknowledges that sometimes you’ve struggled and come up short, but you’ve learned and gotten up again to try to make a difference for your clients.

The new ACL funding will help APS programs enhance their work in so many ways: by supporting new collaborations and partnerships, new technology, new training opportunities, more services to clients, and so much more. The evaluation of these efforts will yield information on promising practices which, when shared with others, will enhance practice. There’s a farming metaphor in here somewhere, something about sowing seeds and yielding crops and fertilizing the field (get it?), but I digress.

The future looks bright, if still uncertain. We’re all still struggling out of the worst pandemic in the last century. We’re still hoping that this dedicated APS funding continues in future federal budgets. We’re still trying to figure out how to look better on Zoom calls. But, even in the face of these challenges, we take time on WEAAD to re-commit to our shared goal: relieving suffering, ending adult maltreatment.

One administrator said the first word that came to her mind upon hearing about the new funding was “light.” I loved that. She went on: “As in a brighter light to shine on a hidden issue. As in a light to bring vulnerable adults, their needs and wishes, into focus. As in a light for a path forward.” Indeed.

We’ll see you on the path.

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