In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA) reintroduced this bill from the 116th Congress to combat rising child mistreatment due to the rising rates of child maltreatment over the past decade:
“We have seen a worrying increase in reports of domestic violence and child abuse during this pandemic. With more people at home together during this pandemic, and with families under more stress than ever, children are at higher risk of abuse. Too often we react to child abuse after the fact. As a pediatrician, I want to do everything I can to ensure we prevent child abuse before it happens, which is what this bill intends. That is why I’m proud to introduce Stronger CAPTA, which will provide resources to families and states to help prevent child abuse and neglect, including for children affected by the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the previous session of Congress, Rep. Schrier said:
“One death of a child is one too many. As a pediatrician, I am trained to identify potential instances of child abuse and neglect. Too often we react to child abuse instead of doing everything we can to prevent it. It is long past time to help children before they are abused. That is why I’m proud to introduce CAPTA, which will provide resources to families and states to help prevent child abuse and neglect, including for children affected by the opioid crisis.”
Original cosponsor Rep. James Comer (R-KY, Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Ranking Member, believes this bill will be one of the five most important pieces of legislation to come out of Congress this year. He adds:
“I'm proud to be the lead Republican sponsor of this reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides states and community organizations with the tools and resources they need to provide evidence-based, prevention-focused services for our nation’s children and families. The safety and security of some of our most vulnerable members of society – our nation’s children – is of the utmost importance and requires this committee's full attention.”
Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a national association of nonprofit providers in social services, says the connection between the opioid epidemic and child maltreatment is playing out across the country. She says, “I move all around the country, and I cannot think of a single state where this is not becoming a growing issue in their child welfare system.”
However, Dreyfus adds, it’s imperative to address the opioid epidemic’s root causes:
“We’ve got to get underneath the true causes of [opioid addiction], which are really steeped in people’s lack of coping skills, their own health, well-being and sense of hopefulness in their lives. I think people are self-medicating with opioids and we’ve got to understand why. If we think we’re going to solve the opioid epidemic by simply increasing access to treatment, we will be forever perplexed by the dilemma.”
The American Principles Project opposed this legislation in the 116th Congress. It advocated for a clean reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act instead, which would strip the House-added provisions, including the gender identity provision that it argued “slipped transgender ideology into child abuse prevention”:
“House Democrats have hijacked legislation designed to protect and support truly abused children in order to make it easier for transgender activists to control the healthcare decisions of minor children and coerce parents into going along with it by threatening to take their children away if they don’t… Despite many parents rightly questioning the idea that medical intervention is the best treatment for a child with body image issues or an immature understanding of gender, the Left is enforcing its radical gender ideology with an iron fist, hijacking the most fundamental human relationship — that of a parent and child. Already, parents in Ohio have lost custody of their minor daughter when they questioned a gender clinic’s decision to give her testosterone treatment. This decision to strip parental rights from good, loving parents was celebrated by transgender activist organizations.”
This legislation has 25 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 19 Democrats and six Republicans. The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, National Child Abuse Coalition, and National Court Appointed Special Advocates Guardians ad Litem (National CASA/GAL) support this legislation.
In the previous Congressional session, this bill passed the House by a voice vote 49 bipartisan cosponsors, including 30 Democrats and 19 Republicans.
Of Note: Following significant declines in child abuse and neglect rates through the 1990s and 2000s, the child maltreatment rate has climbed in recent years due to the opioid epidemic, which has devastated families and communities across the country. Thus, 676,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2016.
In a March 2018 research brief, the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation found that nationally, rates of drug overdose deaths and drug-related hospitalizations have a statistical relationship with child welfare caseloads, including rates of child protective services reports, substantiated reports, and foster care placements. The HHS report also found that higher indicators of substance use correspond to more complex and severe child welfare cases.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the key piece of federal legislation addressing child abuse and neglect. It provides federal funding to states to support child abuse prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities. It also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofits, including Native American tribes and tribal organizations, for demonstration programs and projects to prevent and address child maltreatment.
Although it’s unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting rates of child abuse and neglect, initial data shows that the number of children hospitalized due to child abuse and negledct has remained stable during the pandemic. This suggests a continued need to support American families, especially with families facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Imgorthand)