On Monday, March 30, the Administration for Children and Families announced that it is removing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) regulations in their entirety effective June 29, 2015.   They are not seeking comments.  In their announcement they say:

“These regulations no longer apply to the CAPTA programs they were originally designed to implement because of major legislative changes to CAPTA since the regulations were issued.”

ACF points out that CAPTA regulations have not been updated since 1990 with several congressional reauthorizations (1996, 2003 and 2010) taking place since then.  There has not been a prohibition on ACF from issuing updated regulations after any of those reauthorizations.  In fact with the 2010 reauthorization the final Senate report stated in regard to child maltreatment fatalities, “ The committee calls upon the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop clear guidelines in the form of regulations instructing the States of the responsibilities under CAPTA to release public information in cases of child maltreatment fatalities and near fatalities, and to provide technical assistance to States in developing the appropriate procedures for full disclosure of information and findings in these cases.”

HHS indicates that the removal of the regulations does not establish or affect substantive policy stating that “it is unnecessary and outmoded to implement the CAPTA state grant programs through regulation. We believe the program requirements are made clear in the statute and have provided policy interpretations and program instructions to implement the program since 1996 in lieu of regulations.”

In explaining why HHS is not taking comments they say “it is the practice of the Secretary to offer interested parties the opportunity to comment on proposed regulations. However, these regulations merely reflect statutory changes and remove unnecessary and obsolete regulatory provisions. Therefore, the Secretary has determined…that public comment is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest.”

Underlying the action is the reality that CAPTA state grants have been getting cut by a combination of flat funding requests by the Administration and across the board cuts to human service funding by Congress.  CAPTA state grants are currently set at approximately $25.6 million a year.  The last time an Administration sought increased funding was when the Bush Administration sought to double spending in FY 2005 and received a 25 percent increase to $27.5 million in that year.