When the budget is released tomorrow it will likely maintain CAPTA state grants at its current funding level of just under $26 million. It represents a gradual erosion of funding of a program that is part of a law originally created in 1974 to help the nation address the way we recognized and address child maltreatment taking place behind closed doors and within families. Generally, administration and congressional budgets fund the CAPTA state grants at the previous year’s levels. Over time that level funding gets reduced as a result of across-the-board cuts, including the recent sequestration reductions. The last time there was a request for significant increases in CAPTA was in 2003. The resulting increases have been lost over time since that FY 2004 appropriation.

CAPTA directs the states to carry out a number of duties with the funding including having a child protective services system, providing a system of mandatory reporters of child maltreatment, requiring states to provide court appointed special advocates, and in recent years requiring states to create safe baby plans for infants exposed to alcohol and other substances and to refer vulnerable infants and toddlers to IDEA Part C. In the most recent reauthorization of CAPTA in 2010 language was included to encourage states to better coordinate CPS and domestic violence programs. In the past two years efforts have also been made to focus CAPTA on sex trafficking, sometimes expanding its mission beyond family-focused child maltreatment. Despite the directives to states, the funding is so small that there is little actual leverage to implement or require states to implement the state plan requirements. During Monday’s Commission meeting on child fatalities, several members were surprised that the data collection requirements under CAPTA are voluntary.

Before the sequestration cuts of recent years, at least four states received less than $100,000 to fund their CPS systems. States do use other child welfare funding sources to help make up the gap including the extensive use of the SSBG (generally more than $120 million) and Child Welfare Services (CWS), (in 2010 38 states spent over $112 million on CPS from this source). In the 2010 reauthorization Congress included language that if appropriations for CAPTA increased by $1 million over 2009 levels, the base grants would increase to $100,000 per state. If funding increased by $2 million, then that base grant would go up to $125,000 per state and if the appropriations increased by $3 million above the 2009 funding level, then every state would receive at least $150,000. That could help all states but would immediately impact at least a dozen states that now get less than $150,000 per year. Unfortunately the current funding set at approximately $25.3 million is actually below the total for 2009. Other related CAPTA funding streams have also suffered including the CB-CAP, Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants at just under $40 million and below its funding levels of $43 million in recent years.

CWLA will be working with our partners in the National Child Abuse Coalition to increase state grants to at least $30 million in FY 2015 as a way to better meet those minimum funding goals inserted into the 2010 reauthorization, but more importantly, as a way to begin to build CAPTA funding and its many important unmet provisions.