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Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act - H.R. 4843


Preventing child abuse and neglect is a priority that reaches across party lines, and federal policies have long supported state efforts to identify, assess, and treat children who are victims of abuse and neglect.
One of those policies, 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 have 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.
Unfortunately, the law is not being properly followed and enforced. A 2015 Reuters investigation examined the care infants receive when born to parents struggling with opioid addiction. The investigation revealed the department is providing federal funds to states that do not have the necessary child welfare policies in place. The failure to follow and enforce the law has led to shocking, and even deadly, consequences.

To address these concerns, Reps. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced H.R. 4843, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act. 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.
  • Requires the department to review and confirm states have put in place CAPTA policies required under the law;
  • Strengthens protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans;
  • Improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information be shared on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their subsequent care;
  • Ensures the secretary provides states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe;
  • Encourages the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance; and
  • Prevents the department from adding new requirements to state assurances and plans.

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