A reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) could move early this spring. Behind the scenes the key committees in the House and Senate have been working and discussing potential changes. The key committees are the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate HELP Committee. Although Congress has added to CAPTA for such subjects as sex trafficking and directions regarding “plans of safe infant care,” the last time CAPTA was reauthorized was 2010 so it has been running without a reauthorization since 2016. CAPTA did receive an historic appropriation increase in the FY 2018 and 2019 when Congress added in $60 million to the $25 million state grants. This was the single biggest increase and overall total state grant funding in the 1974 law’s history.

CAPTA reauthorization bundles several programs which at times have been their own separate programs. Title I is CAPTA which is intended to assist the state’s child protection as well as prevention efforts and Title II includes Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse or Neglect more commonly referred to as community-based child abuse prevention, CB-CAP. These state grants leverage some non-government funding including funds raised through the various state crafted children’s trust funds. These funds are combined to coordinate community based driven programs such as family resource centers to provide primary prevention services that can and do prevent instances of child maltreatment before families reach a crisis that brings them to a state’s child protection system (CPS).

The National Child Abuse Coalition (CWLA—a founding member—continues to be a member)
has released the National Child Abuse Coalition recommendations, Taking CAPTA to the Next Level. These recommendations set a framework for increasing the focus on primary prevention both through the CAPTA state grants and the CB-CAP grants. It is a theme that should receive a positive response from the Children’s Bureau and Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner who has placed a heavy emphasis on primary prevention—preventing child abuse before it happens.

Echoing the recommendations of the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, the recommendations call on Congress to increase funding by one billion dollars. The Coalition calls for $500 million more for CAPTA and $500 million more for CB-CAP. The other recommendations of the Coalition include:

1. Substantially increase funding for both titles in CAPTA
2. Strengthen Title II to build robust state and local systems that enhance coordination, quality, availability, and access to core services that strengthen families, improve child well-being, and prevent child abuse and neglect.
3. Take steps to strengthen CAPTA by restructuring the “use of funds” in Section 106 to further emphasize a primary prevention approach and help states and communities build a more cohesive system to child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment
4. Encourage state reform by streamlining and updating the Title I state plan to improve transparency and accountability in long-required state practices and state systems
5. Build the evidence base and help states and communities implement evidence-based prevention systems
6. Reduce child fatalities and near fatalities from child abuse and neglect by implementing some key recommendations from the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities
7. Take steps to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse within institutional contexts
8. Spur local innovation in the field through new competitive grants focused on supporting families and prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Another separate program from CAPTA but authorized within the same legislation is the Adoption Opportunities Act. Adoption opportunities is the oldest and first federal funding to address adoptions from foster care.

CWLA has been working with Voice for Adoption (VFA) in making some recommendation on improvements to the Adoption Opportunities Including: increased funding (above the current $39 million) to strengthen and develop postadoption services—especially for families in crisis, recruitment of adoptive families for older youth, and programs to address overrepresentation of children and youth of color in foster care. The last goal of recruiting more minority parents was one of the earliest missions of the grant program. Adoption opportunities also funds important adoption resources such as Adopt US Kids.

CWLA and VFA have also been advocating for Congress to maintain the current statutory requirement to have an Adoption Resource Center. Additionally, there have been on-going efforts with Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) to address the unregulated transfer of children—what some people crudely describe as “the re-homing of children.” (see later article) Under discussion is an effort that would direct HHS to provide a report and technical assistance and support to states on model legislation and post-adoption services that drive many of these reported instances of unregulated transfers.

The CAPTA law also included the abandoned infants’ program that provided $11 million in grants to programs that assisted states in addressing the challenge of new parents in crisis giving up their children at birth. The program came about in the 1980s in response to the AIDS and crack epidemic and the resulting increase of parents abandoning their new born infants. Congress abandoned the funding more than four years ago.

CWLA will be sending it members to Capitol Hill at this year’s National Conference with a message to Congress that they need to increase CAPTA funding and CB-CAP significantly in the next appropriations legislation.