Contact: Press Office (202) 226-9440
Barletta Statement: Debate on H.R. 4843, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act

Every 25 minutes in America, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. It’s an eye-opening statistic, and the more you consider what it really means, the more tragic it becomes. Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world having already been exposed to drugs. Every 25 minutes, a newborn has to pay the price for something he or she was defenseless against. Every 25 minutes, another infant becomes a victim of the national opioid crisis.

These are the victims the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act will help protect.

Federal policies—including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA—have long supported state efforts to identify, assess, and treat children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems if they assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have put in place certain child welfare policies. For example, requiring health care providers to notify child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure and requiring the development of something known as a “safe care plan” to keep these newborns and their caregivers healthy and safe.

Last year, a Reuters investigation examined the care infants receive when they are born to parents struggling with opioid addiction. The investigation detailed the heartbreaking consequences those infants had to endure—consequences like suffering through the physical pain of withdrawal, and in the most shocking cases, terrible deaths.

It’s hard to imagine stories like these could be any more tragic. Unfortunately, they are—because they should have, and in many cases, could have been prevented. As Reuters revealed, HHS is providing federal funds to states that do not have the necessary child welfare policies in place. In short: the law is not being properly followed and enforced, and some of our most vulnerable children and families are slipping through the cracks.

That’s why Representative Clark and I worked with a number of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and introduced the legislation before us today. This bill requires HHS to better ensure states are meeting their legal responsibilities when it comes to preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.

Through a number of commonsense measures, it strengthens protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure, improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families, and ensures states will have best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.

As the House works this week to fight the opioid epidemic destroying communities and lives across the country, these are commonsense reforms we should all embrace. By working together and advancing this legislation, we can help ensure these children, mothers, and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve.

# # #