Analysis of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Social Policy|
|✅ Wordcount: 1845 words||✅ Published: 8th Feb 2020|
Ethics and Social Policy in Human Services
One of the major policies that have gone into effect to help child abuse and neglect is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Enacted in January 31, 1974 by president Nixon, it is a federal policy which has been amended many times throughout the years, most recently in January 2019.
“CAPTA provides Federal funding and guidance to States in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations, for demonstration programs and projects” (“About CAPTA: A Legislative History,” 2019). It’s intended target population is abused and neglected children in the United States, but as reauthorizations have been made, more groups have been added such as victims of sex trafficking, homeless families or families at risk of homelessness and disabled children.
History of CAPTA
Child abuse and neglect has been a problem since the pilgrims settled in the new world. Some policies started going into effect in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first major policy to help children went into effect. CAPTA has been the key federal policy that has helped thousands of children in the never ending battle of child abuse and neglect.
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Amendments have constantly been made to further improve CAPTA and add grants to assist more families and further the scope to help victims. The first reauthorization was made in 1978, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978. It called for all states to fund child protection programs. Additionally it called for further training and technical assistance and required the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect to establish a plan that made it easier to coordinate activities with other agencies, to prioritize research and appropriate funds to construct centers for prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014).
To further assist children, specifically babies, that were denied treatment due to disabilities, CAPTA once again was amended to add the “Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, the so-called Baby Doe Amendment, which extended the laws defining child abuse to include the withholding of fluids, food, and medically indicated treatment from disabled children” (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014).
In addition the Children’s Justice Act program was affixed to CAPTA by the Children’s Justice and Assistance Act of 1986. CAPTA was entirely rewritten in the Child Abuse Prevention, Adoption, and Family Services Act of 1988. It was later changed by the Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989 and the Drug Free School Amendments of 1989 (“About CAPTA: A Legislative History,” 2019). In the 90s five more amendments were added mostly dealing with child maltreatment. The next major amendment to CAPTA was in 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which identified and helped victims of sex trafficking.
In the 1970s, although Washington wanted to undertake the concern of child maltreatment, the pressure of submitting a legislation on child abuse and neglect was ambiguous. “Two years earlier, President Nixon had vetoed a bill that addressed child care.” The Nixon Administration did look favorably on the federal government backing children’s issues. The president wanted these issues to be handled by each state rather than federally. (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014, p. 7).
Even though CAPTA was signed by Nixon and passed in 1974, it had its share of outspoken opposers. For example the Director of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), he disputed that the policy did very little. He believed that first the issue of “parenting practices, corporal punishment, income disparities, and the types of challenges that control low-income families” (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014, p. 8) needed to be addressed in order to resolve child maltreatment.
Even the first Director of the Office of Child Development, who was appointed by Nixon, opposed the legislation and called it “a token effort” because he believed that the policy did not delve deep into the issue at hand (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014, p. 9). Senator Mondale believed the legislation would not last long and thought the policy “as another poverty program,” he saw the issue as something every American family was overcome with (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014, p. 9).
Many at the time felt that there were two different issues, child maltreatment and poverty. Regardless the legislation was passed despite these constrains. Sad to report that “tension around the contributions of social-ecological factors to child maltreatment persists in the field to this day” (“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014, p. 9).
There were no unintended consequences with the enactment of CAPTA. Consequently, the only reality that was faced, was that the government was ill equipped to handle such a huge undertaking that was inevitably CAPTA: for instance they had no true scope to assess the problems and there were no clear consistent guidelines in place for each state to address the issues. Therefore, in order to solve some of these issues, CAPTA created the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN).
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In order for each state to received grants to help with child maltreatment, each state had to establish firmer laws for reporting child abuse, set rules for investigation and assistance with law enforcement, courts and social services agencies.(“The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children,” 2014). As a result of CAPTA each state had to put more effort into the issue and not leave it to the federal government, state government was now accountable and followed set regulations established in CAPTA.
Results of CAPTA
Results on the target population have not been so favorable since the enactment of CAPTA. Since the passing of CAPTA reporting has improved greatly “some States that reported an increase in child fatalities from 2012 to 2013 attributed it to improvements in reporting after the passage of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which passed in 2010” (“Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2016: Statistics and Interventions,” 2018). Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act is an amendment for CAPTA.
Even though reporting has improved, the numbers tell a story that might not be so favorable for CAPTA, “in 1973, child-protection agencies handled about 60,000 reports of abuse and neglect; today they handle 3 million” (Orr, n.d. p. I). An escalation in the number of children being neglected or abused has steadily increased throughout the years. Fatalities have also increased, “nationally estimated 1,750 children died from abuse or neglect in Fiscal Year 2016, which is 7.4 percent more than in 2012” (“Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2016: Statistics and Interventions,” 2018). Some politicians disagree with these finding and estimate the numbers to be even greater due to under-reporting, uncoordinated investigations and other factors. To handle some of these concerns, multidisciplinary and multi-agency child fatality review teams have been created to facilitate the reason for child fatalities (“Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2016: Statistics and Interventions,” 2018). The amendment of 1992, supported the development of these new agencies.
Another major assistance that CAPTA offers is funding to every state to aid them in the development of child protective services system. Even though the budget to assist states is in the millions, it “is not possible to assess the full effectiveness of CAPTA funding on state programs.” (“Report to Congress on the Effectiveness of CAPTA State Programs and Technical Assistance,” 2013).
Summary of Current Status
CAPTA constantly keeps amending its policies to further help child abuse and neglect. Most recently it was revised in January 2019, to include immunity from civil and criminal culpability for those that report child abuse and neglect (“About CAPTA: A Legislative History,” 2019). Even with all it’s amendments, the number of fatalities still increase each year, as well as the number of children being reported as abused or neglected. “While most are enthusiastic about the aftermath of welfare reform, no one can be happy about the state of things in child welfare, because, with a few renowned exceptions, it has yet to be truly reformed” (Orr, n.d. p. 37).
- About CAPTA: A Legislative History. (2019, February). Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/about/
- Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2016: Statistics and Interventions. (2018, July). Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatality.pdf
- Orr, S. (n.d.). Child Protection at the Crossroads: Child Abuse, Child Protection, and Recommendations for Reform. Retrieved from https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/files/dfd94f43193053c05646fac22fb26f16.pdf
- Report to Congress on the Effectiveness of CAPTA State Programs and Technical Assistance.(2013, August). Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/capta-effectiveness-report-to-congress
- The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: 40 Years of Safeguarding America’s Children. (2014, April). Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/capta_40yrs.pdf
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