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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda > Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act


CWLA 2008 Children's Legislative Agenda

Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act

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  • Reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), including its three main programs: state grants, discretionary grants, and the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants.

  • Strengthen funding for innovative approaches to address child abuse and neglect such as alternate or differential response and Family Group Decision Making (FGDM).

  • Use CAPTA reauthorization to focus attention on the lack of adequate front-end child abuse and neglect prevention services and their role in the over-representation of children of color in the system.

  • Fully fund CAPTA and the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants at authorized levels so that child abuse and neglect protection programs and services can be implemented.

  • Strengthen funding for the implementation of research and program evaluation efforts to help advance the field of prevention of child abuse and neglect towards more evidenceinformed and evidence-based programs and practices.


Enacted in 1974 and reauthorized in 2003, CAPTA is a key federal legislative vehicle that guides child protection throughout the 50 states. Although funded well below its authorized level, CAPTA provides grants to states to support their child protection systems (CPS), innovations in protective services and community-based preventive services, and research, training, data collection, and program evaluation. The legislation is also the vehicle for reauthorizing the Adoption Opportunities Act and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act.

CAPTA in the 110th Congress

Reauthorizing CAPTA provides an opportunity to explore issues involving child abuse and neglect. Some states, for example, use the differential response method to address reports of abuse and neglect. Differential response is a form of practice in child protective services that allows for more than one method of response to reports of child abuse and/or neglect. Also called "dual track," "multiple track," or "alternative response," this approach recognizes the variation in the nature of reports and the value of responding differentially. 1

There is great variation in state and county implementation of differential response, which generally involves low- and moderate- risk cases that receive a non-investigation assessment response without a formal determination or substantiation of child abuse and neglect. 2 While states are attempting several approaches in this area, the basic policy difference is in how complaints of abuse and neglect are dealt with and screened into or out of the CPS system. In some instances, responses to reports of child abuse and neglect may result in greater family support and services to address the underlying causes.

Another innovation to be examined under reauthorization is FGDM, which offers a new approach to working with families involved with the child welfare system. Families are engaged and empowered by child welfare agencies to make decisions and develop plans that protect and nurture their children from enduring further abuse and neglect. The FGDM approach recognizes that families are the experts of their own situation and, therefore, able to make wellinformed decisions about their circumstance. 3

The debate over CAPTA reauthorization provides a platform to discuss how to regulate and oversee the use of certain facilities that are sometimes referred to as boot camps, wilderness camps, or boarding schools, and the abuses that have sometimes taken place in such settings and facilities. A recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) demonstrated that some facilities lack proper monitoring and are left unregulated, resulting in abuse of some youth patients and tragic loss of life.

CAPTA requires states establish mandatory reporter laws. These laws require certain professions, including physicians, teachers, and other professionals, to report suspected abuse and neglect. In 2006, CWLA called on Congress to extend mandatory reporting requirements to Congress so that any potential abuse in congressional settings, such as child care facilities or dormitories for congressional pages, will have a procedure for reporting child abuse. 4

CAPTA reauthorization also offers policymakers the opportunity to address the issue of disproportionality and disparate outcomes in the child welfare population. The GAO found that while African American children only make up 15% of the national child population, African American children represent 34% of the foster care population. Native Americans represent 1% of the general population and 2% of the foster care population, and a constituency identified as "other" by the GAO only represents 2% of the child population, while representing 5% of the foster care population.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the GAO have determined several factors contribute to a disproportionate number of African American children entering and remaining in foster care, including bias or cultural misunderstandings between child welfare decision makers and the families they serve. The GAO noted in its study that "in all of the states we visited," a lack of adequate support services contributed to disproportionality and disparate outcomes.

The lack of adequate funding under CAPTA has become more acute with the implementation of the President's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) and the increased focus on accountability and ensuring funds are spent on programs and services that can show evidence of achieving positive outcomes. The implementation of evidence-informed and evidence-based programs and practices have significant cost implications attached to them that generally are not funded. The infrastructure costs for evaluating programs, creating programs and services that are evidence-informed with an evaluative component, and adapting evidence-based programs and practices are often prohibitive. 5

State Grants

Title I of CAPTA authorizes discretionary grants to the states to help improve their CPS systems. Funding for these grants has grown only slightly over the past several years, and for the current fiscal year, funding was cut by $500,000, for a total of $26.5 million. These grants range in size from $3 million for California, to less than $200,000 for 15 states. CAPTA imposes no income or other eligibility requirements for people receiving assistance, and the program is intended to keep children of any age safe from harm. States use these grants to develop innovative approaches to improve CPS systems. States must meet eligibility requirements, such as having mandatory reporting laws, preserving victim confidentiality, appointing guardians ad litem and providing them with appropriate training, and establishing citizen review panels.

Discretionary Grants

CAPTA discretionary funds support state efforts to improve their practices in preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. Grants support program development, research, training, technical assistance, and the collection and dissemination of data to advance the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. FY 2008 funding for these discretionary grants was $27.1 million, with an additional $10 million designated for home visitation programs.

These funds also support the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the only federal data collection effort to determine the scope of child abuse and neglect. CAPTA funds also support other national initiatives, such as the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, the National Office of Child Abuse and Neglect (commonly known as OCAN), the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services, and the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Total funding for state and discretionary grants was $63 million in FY 2008, with authorization set at $200 million.

Community - Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Grants for Preventiion of child Abuse and Neglect

CBCAP grants support states' efforts to develop, operate, and expand a network of community-based, preventionfocused family resource and support programs that coordinate resources among a range of existing public and private organizations. The FY 2008 funding level was cut $800,000 to a total of $41.6 million, which includes a 1% set aside for tribal and minority work and for the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention.

Funding is allocated to states by a formula based on the number of children in a state's population and on the amount of funds directed through the grant recipient to prevention and family resource activities. Governors designate their state's funding recipient, which must be an existing entity, with priority consideration for children's trust funds or other entities that leverage a mix of funds for prevention activities.

Key Facts

  • In 2005, an estimated 3.3 million children were reported and referred for investigation to state and local child protection service agencies because family members, professionals, or other citizens were concerned about their safety and well-being. 6

  • After follow-up assessments, officials substantiated 899,000 of these cases. 7

  • An estimated 1,460 children died as a result of abuse and neglect in 2005. 8

  • Of the children who were victims of abuse and neglect in 2005, 62.8% were neglected, 16.6% were physically abused, 9.3% were sexually abused, and 7.1% were emotionally maltreated. 9

  • More than three-quarters of perpetrators of child maltreatment (79.4%) were parents. 10

  • Exposure to adverse childhood events (ACEs) is associated with increased risk of depressive disorders for decades after they occur. Early recognition of childhood abuse and appropriate intervention may thus play an important role in the prevention of depressive disorders throughout life. 11


  1. Merkel-Holguin, L. (2007). What is FGDM? Putting families back into the child protection partnership: Family Group Decision Making. Available online. Denver, CO: American Humane Association. back
  2. Schene, P. (2005). The emergence of differential response. Protecting Children, 20(2-3), 4-7. back
  3. Merkel-Holguin, L., Kaplan, C., & Kwak, A. (2006). National Study on Differential Response in Child Welfare. Denver, CO, and Washington, DC: American Humane Association and the Child Welfare League of America. back
  4. U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2007). African American children in foster care: Additional HHS assistance needed to help states reduce the proportion in care. [GAO-07-816.] Washington, DC: Author. back
  5. Family Resource Information, Education, and Network Development Service and Children's Bureau. (2007). Guidelines for CBCAP lead agencies on evidence-based and evidence-informed programs and practices: Learning along the way. Available online. Washington, DC: Authors. back
  6. U.S. Census Bureau. (2006). National population estimates - characteristics. National sex and age (NC-EST2006-02). Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (HHS, ACYF). (2007). Child maltreatment 2005, summary. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  8. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (HHS, ACYF). (2007). Child maltreatment 2005, child fatalities. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  9. HHS, ACYF, Child maltreatment 2005, summary. back
  10. Ibid. back
  11. Chapman, D.P., Whitfield, C.L., Felitti, V.J., Dube, S.R., Edwards, V.J, & Anda, R.F. (2004). Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of depressive disorders in adulthood. Journal of Affective Disorders, 82(2), 217-225. back

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