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House Passes Bill to Strengthen Protections Against Child Abuse and Neglect

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) today released the following statements after the House passed the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843) by a vote of 421 to 0. As part of a broader House effort to address the country’s growing opioid epidemic, the bipartisan bill will strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to better ensure states are meeting current child welfare requirements.
 
“Through a number of commonsense measures, this legislation will strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure and ensure states have the help they need to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect,” Rep. Barletta said. “These are the kinds of reforms we should all embrace. By working together, we can help ensure vulnerable children, mothers, and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve.”
 
“The opioid epidemic has led to painful consequences for families and communities across the country, but none are as tragic as those suffered by the infants of parents struggling with addiction,” Chairman Kline said. “This bill will help ensure the most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic receive the help and care they desperately need. I appreciate the leadership of Representatives Barletta and Clark in developing a bipartisan response to this serious—but preventable—problem. I look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate as we advance these reforms and continue to fight the national opioid crisis.”

BACKGROUND: 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.

A recent 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.

To address these concerns, Reps. Barletta and Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced H.R. 4843, which the committee approved in April. As passed by the House, 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 be shared on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their subsequent 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 the bill, click here.