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Committee Approves Bipartisan Bill to Help Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved H.R. 4843, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act. Introduced by Reps. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the bipartisan legislation will require the Department of Health and Human Services to better ensure states are meeting current child welfare requirements, particularly protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure. The bill passed the committee by a voice vote.

“Our nation is facing a growing opioid epidemic that is destroying communities, families, and lives, and some of the most vulnerable children and families are suffering its worst consequences,” Chairman Kline said. “This bill is an important part of a much broader effort to address the national opioid crisis. The bill will strengthen protections not only for infants exposed to illegal drugs before birth, but for all children in need of help and care. I’m grateful for the leadership of Representatives Barletta and Clark and for their work advancing this critical bipartisan proposal. We have taken an important step to address a real need, and I look forward to advancing these reforms in the weeks ahead.”

“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,” Rep. Barletta said. “It is a sad reality that in every hour of every day in this country, two babies are born addicted to opioids. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”

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 the Department of Health and Human Services 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, resulting in shocking and deadly consequences.
To address these concerns, Reps. Barletta and Clark introduced H.R. 4843. As passed by the committee, the bill 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;
  • Ensure the secretary provides 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; and
  • Prevent the department from adding new requirements to state assurances and plans.

To read a fact sheet on the bill, click here.
To read the bill, click here.

To read opening statements or watch an archived webcast of the markup, click here.


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