Murray, Burr Introduce Bipartisan Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
Bipartisan bill will help keep children safe by more effectively preventing child abuse and neglect and ensuring our child protective services system can respond effectively to serious cases of abuse and neglect
(Washington, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Richard Burr, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization of 2021, a bipartisan bill to keep children across the country safe by more effectively preventing child abuse and neglect and ensuring our child protective services system can respond effectively to serious cases of abuse and neglect. Each year at least 1 in 7 children experience child abuse or neglect, and in 2019 alone, more than 1,800 children died in the United States due to abuse and neglect. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the conditions that can put children at risk for abuse and neglect, including increases in familial stress, isolation, and economic insecurity, and the percentage of emergency room hospitalizations due to child abuse and neglect has increased during the pandemic.
This bipartisan bill takes a public health, trauma-informed approach to improve our child protective services system to keep children safe. The bill focuses on expanding access to community-based prevention services to strengthen families and help prevent and reduce instances of child abuse and neglect—also ensuring that child protective services have the capacity to rapidly respond to cases where children are at serious risk of harm. The bill will also improve data collection to better understand the nature and scope of child abuse and neglect and support adoption opportunities for children facing systemic barriers to adoption.
“Every child deserves to live in a safe, secure and stable environment. We need to do everything we can to support families to prevent child abuse and neglect and ensure that our child protective system can respond effectively when abuse and neglect occurs. These goals cannot and should not be partisan—that’s why I’m so pleased that Ranking Member Burr has joined me in introducing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Reauthorization Act of 2021,” said Chair Murray. “This bipartisan bill is a critical and necessary step in our effort to keep every child safe and strengthen our child protective services system—including by connecting families in need to resources and supports to prevent and reduce abuse and neglect, increasing the capacity of our system to protect children at highest risk of injury or harm, collecting better data, and supporting adoption opportunities for all children. I urge all my colleagues to join this bipartisan effort and work with us to get it across the finish line.”
“We still don’t fully know the emotional and educational toll vulnerable children in this country suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or how many more children were put at risk for abuse and neglect because their schools were kept closed,” said Senator Burr. “It’s absolutely essential that we acknowledge and understand the scope of child abuse and neglect during and after the pandemic and do everything we can to better protect our nation’s children. There is no greater responsibility we have to the next generation than keeping them safe. I’m proud that Republicans and Democrats are working together through the Committee process on this important issue.”
Specifically, the bill will help strengthen our country’s child protective services systems by:
- Promoting a trauma-informed, public health approach to support families and prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect, including by investing in primary prevention to connect families in need to voluntary, community-based family strengthening services, implementing policies and procedures to rapidly respond to cases involving children at most serious risk of harm, authorizing a 24-hour toll-free National Child Abuse Hotline, improving the training, retention, and well-being of the child protective services workforce, promoting the use of trauma-informed practices in the investigation and treatment of child abuse and neglect, and reducing bias in the child protective services system. Additionally, the bill promotes strategies to reduce unnecessary investigations of families by the child protective services system solely based on circumstances related to poverty or housing status.
- Increasing access to community-based services to strengthen families, including by supporting States, Tribes, and Tribal organizations in providing community-based prevention services to support families, supporting increased parental leadership and emphasizing the involvement of diverse populations in identifying and responding to community needs, authorizing $270 million for Community Based Child Abuse Prevention programs, and increasing dedicated funding for Indian Tribes, Tribal organizations, and migrant populations for primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.
- Improving data collection to understand the nature and scope of child abuse and neglect, including making state data submission mandatory and improving annual reporting requirements to improve transparency, providing funding for States, Tribes, and Tribal organizations to support child death review programs to improve data collection and reporting related to child fatalities and near-fatalities, and promoting increased shared responsibility across public agencies to prevent child fatalities and near-fatalities.
- Supporting permanent adoption opportunities for children, including by increasing authorization levels for the Adoption Opportunities Act, improving post-legal adoption services, supporting adoption opportunities for children facing barriers to adoption, and supporting the recruitment of racially and ethnically diverse prospective adoptive parents.
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