Shaquita Ogletree
On Tuesday, December 4, the American Psychological Association (APA) and Partners for Children co-hosted the congressional briefings on Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in the House (a subsequent meeting was held on Wednesday, December 5th in the Senate). Child maltreatment affects a significant portion of our population.

The briefing highlighted examples from states implementing prevention programs that aim to coordinate evidence-based programs from North Carolina and Colorado. The panel included Kristin O’Connor, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dan Comer, Kempe Center Colorado, Sarah Font, Penn State University, and Nathan Ross, Foster Adopt Connect, Missouri.

Child Abuse and neglect affects 1 in 8 children by age 18 with 7.4 million children being referred to Child Protective Services (CPS). About 3. 2 million are investigated, and over 2500 children die of child maltreatment each year in the U.S. The U.S. is the second leading developing country in the world with deaths from child abuse, according to UNICEF. Roughly 40 percent of children reported for suspected maltreatment are re-reported to child protective services and 20 percent are re-victimized.

Ms. Font discussed her experience as a caseworker when a child in her caseload was killed by her mother after services were stopped. Prevention is a prime opportunity for averting child maltreatment. Primary prevention seeks to avert child maltreatment before a family comes to the attention of child protective services. Programs like Triple P – Positive Parenting Program in North Carolina’s tiered model shows how primary prevention impacts children and families if implemented across multi-systemic coordination. Ms. O’Connor emphasized that effective implementation is key to quality programs. North Carolina uses a public-private partnership to evaluate programs whereas Colorado uses state funding.

Colorado Community Response (CCR) is a voluntary program that targets prevention services to families that have been deflected from the child welfare system without the provision of formalized services. The prevention program served 1900 families in 28 counties in North Carolina with 12-16 weeks of case management. Mr. Comer shared the goals of the program is to provide comprehensive voluntary services, to address the link between poverty and maltreatment, and to increase families’ protective capacities. Colorado provides targeted intervention that diverts non-maltreatment cases toward prevention services and out of child protective services.

Former foster youth survivor Nathan Ross shared how child protective services investigated his mother ten times and no response was provided for the removal of him and his four siblings until the tragedy happened. He described being physically and emotionally abused by his mother and even being tormented by his mother to be a part of the abuse his siblings. In 1999, his family became known to his community, state, and nationally as for how the system had failed this family when two of his siblings died as a result of his mother’s abuse. At ten years of age, Nathan and his other two siblings entered the foster care system, and he expressed how “foster care saved my life,” and allowed him to be adopted but it could have been prevented. Years later Mr. Ross visited him mother in prison and asked her if intervention would have helped and she informed him that she went to the court several times to terminate her parental rights and [the courts] said they could not help.

The reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) presents an opportunity to leverage and strengthen innovative and effective approaches for preventing maltreatment occurrence and recurrence and is a top priority of Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), who will be the incoming chair of the House education and Workforce Committee.
When asked about how the Family First Prevention Service Act (FFPSA) would be beneficial to the states, North Carolina indicated they are examining how many of the prevention programs will be eligible for reimbursement. Attendees were reminded that the intent of CAPTA is prevention and the intent of FFPSA is an intervention for children and families. Recommendations included: targeted prevention strategies to families after a CPS referral, improvement in prevention strategies to maximize impact, and reauthorization of CAPTA to strengthen the impact of prevention efforts.

To learn more about Nathan Ross’ story, you can visit his website