Legislation currently moving through Congress to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) could be key in eradicating child abuse. The program has essentially been flat-funded since 2005, but child welfare experts believe that greater investment is needed to truly make a difference.
The annual budget for the fiscal year 2019 for CAPTA was only $125 million. The House and Senate have both agreed to increase that to $145 million for the fiscal year 2020. Many advocates are pushing for an increase of $1 billion, with $500 million going towards state funds and $500 million for community grants.
The increased funding is long overdue and is a critical link in the effort to increase abuse tracking, prevent child abuse and decrease fatalities that are the result of child abuse.
Understanding Risk Factors
Another important component of CAPTA is to better understand which children are most at risk. Reporting requirements can help policymakers better understand, and a national standard definition of maltreatment fatality would help identify at-risk children. Currently, there is no standard or mandated reporting system for child abuse or neglect deaths in the United States.
The House version of CAPTA called for that standard; however, the language is not included in the Senate markup. A new bipartisan bill introduced by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt and Ohio Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown could rectify the omission on the Senate markup. The Child Abuse Deaths Disclosure Act would require that all states collect data on every death caused by child abuse or neglect.
The bill would also mandate that states identify ways to prevent the deaths. In a statement, Senator Blunt said “We have an obligation to do all we can to keep children safe. Having a complete and accurate understanding of the circumstances surrounding every child abuse-related death will give policymakers, law enforcement, and public health officials the information they need to prevent these heinous deaths.”
The commission already agrees that child abuse deaths are preventable. Arming our resources with better data, research, leadership and accountability, the bill would bring us closer to preventing child abuse and fatalities.