As part of the Senate HELP Committee’s debate of a mental health reform measure (see below), senators also endorsed S 2687, the Plan of Safe Care Improvements Act.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) would alter CAPTA and the current language around safe care plans and existing directives to states to have a plan of care for infants exposed to illegal substances or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  The provision has never been implemented with thoroughness since the 2010 reauthorization of CAPTA.  Much of that enforcement is related to a lack of funding appropriated under CAPTA.

The bill new language includes greater specificity by directing states to develop and implement a monitoring to ensure the safety and well-being of children; address the health, including mental health, needs of the child and family involved; and determine whether local entities are capable of providing referrals to and delivery of appropriate services for the child and family.  It also directs HHS to offer guidance within 90 days of enactment of the legislation, increases HHS monitoring and creates added data collection.

Current state grants amount to less than $26 million a year with over a dozen states receiving less than $200,000 a year for all of the CAPTA requirements.  That figure represents less than 32 cents per child.

As has been the practice in recent years, funding to implement the CAPTA changes are unlikely to be followed up by increased appropriations.  The last time CAPTA state grants were increased was FY 2005. CAPTA has suffered in the appropriations process despite Congress’s willingness to amend and add to state mandates, most recently last year when Congress added new requirements in regard to sex trafficking legislation.  The 2010 reauthorization included new language added by Congress that if appropriations exceeded the 2010 funding levels by just $1 million minimum state grants would go to $100,000 and if funding increased by $3 million minimum grants would be set at $150,000.  Since that reauthorization Congress has actually cut state grants.  The lack of funding for CAPTA makes SSBG a much bigger source of funding for child protective services.