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Members Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Efforts Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce today introduced the Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act. The legislation will strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect by strengthening and requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to better ensure states are meeting current child welfare requirements. Upon introduction, the bill’s co-sponsors released the following statements:
“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” said Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA). “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”
“Babies deserve every chance at health and success from the beginning of their lives,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). “This legislation puts families at the center of care and ensures that babies and mothers affected by substance use disorders get the help they need to have happy, healthy, and successful lives.”
“We are failing some of our most vulnerable children and families,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “An unwillingness to follow and enforce the law has led to shocking and even deadly consequences. We have a moral responsibility to do better. This legislation will help ensure current policies are enforced and these children and families receive the help and care they desperately need.”
“This bill is a strong, positive first step to safeguard the well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable children,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the full committee. “It works to ensure that states and the federal government are following through on their promise to protect infants suffering from drug dependency and assist affected families and caregivers in getting the help they need. I look forward to using this bill as a springboard for a bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.”
“As communities in Michigan struggle with the grip of addiction—including the rise of heroin and prescription opioids—we must ensure safe care plans are in place to help our most vulnerable citizens who are affected by this tragedy. Our bipartisan legislation will strengthen safeguards at the federal and state level to ensure infants born into a life of drug addiction are safely cared for and protected,” said Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI).
“Substance-exposed infants face unique challenges from birth that require a holistic approach,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). “Opioid addiction is a widespread epidemic that has to be addressed. This bill is the first step towards tackling this issue by clarifying existing requirements around supporting infants and their families and strengthening oversight. This is a common-sense solution that will benefit families in Colorado and nationwide.”

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was enacted in 1974 to coordinate federal efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems. In order to receive funds under CAPTA, states are required to assure HHS that they have implemented certain child welfare policies. Such policies include requiring health care providers to notify state child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure, as well as requiring the development of a “safe care plan” to protect these newborns and keep them and their caregivers healthy. A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place.

To address these concerns, Reps. Barletta and Clark—along with Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Scott, and Reps. Walberg and Polis—introduced the Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act (H.R. 4843). The legislation will:
  • Require the department to review and confirm states have put in place CAPTA policies required under the law;
  • Strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans;
  • Improve accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their care;
  • Provide states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe;
  • Encourage the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance;
  • Prevent the department from adding new requirements to state assurances and plans.

To read the bill, click here.

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