When House Education and the Workforce members introduced, the Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act  last month, after a recent action by the Senate HELP Committee, they took a more targeted approach.  Targeted toward HHS.  Both bills focus on the “safe care” plans for children born and identified as being affected by illegal substances or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  The Senate outlines more specificity in what should be included in such plans while the House bill directs HHS to expand their evidence through a clearinghouse and to conduct monitoring of the safe care plans.  Both bills create more data collection requirements but data collection, in part because of meager federal funding, is voluntary.  In all likelihood such data collection will result in almost no additional annual information over the next half decade.

The House bill while also placing greater directives on HHS at the same time includes language that the new bill requirements does not allow new requirements under the state CAPTA plan.  “Nothing in the Act shall be construed to authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services or any other officer of the Federal Government to add new requirements to section 106(b) (state plans).”

Despite the lack of funding for state plans, less than $26 million, Congress continues to use CAPTA to address and child welfare issues that captivate Capitol Hill without providing the follow-though of funding that might make the new law changes real.  This set of bills deals with the heroin drug use problem, last year Congress used a CAPTA change to address sex trafficking by creating new mandates on state CPS including directs on screening, the provison of services and coordination with other agencies.