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The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

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Mid-Term: Policy Analysis

University of Southern California

Introduction: Issue, Policy, Problem

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was first enacted on January 31, 1974 by President Richard Nixon. The purpose of this legislation was to address the long standing issue of child abuse and neglect in the United States through Federally funded programs (H.R. Rep No. 111- 378, 2010). The act provides financial assistance for identifying, preventing, and treating child abuse and neglect in every state (H.R. Rep No. 111- 378, 2010). CAPTA also sets forth a minimum definition of child abuse and neglect: Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. Since its original enactment, CAPTA has been amended numerous times to reform the law. The most recent amendment was in December of 2010 (California Department of Social Services, 2011). The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Adoption Opportunities Act, and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act also get reauthorized along with CAPTA (H.R. Rep No. 111- 378, 2010).

Child abuse and neglect has been an occurrence in the United States since the country's inception (Popple, P. & Vecchiolla, F., 2007). Before the nineteenth century, there was little concern for the well-being of children besides the regard over the threat that children posed to society when free of supervision. The impact of child abuse and neglect on American society was apparent as orphans and children of poor families roamed the streets causing mischief, stealing, forming street gangs, begging and prostituting. As the country became more industrialized, the perspective on child welfare changed (Popple, P. & Vecchiolla, F., 2007). Child abuse and neglect eventually became a significant issue to be addressed and child welfare was executed (Popple, P. & Vecchiolla, F., 2007).

CAPTA is related to social work on a macro level as the problem that it addresses requires a comprehensive approach through local, state, and national government efforts to be most effective (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). All levels of the government, private agencies, civic and religious groups, professional organizations, and individual volunteers play a significant role in the mission of CAPTA and the utilization of funds through the policy. According to the department of health and human services, Congress has found that the problem of child abuse requires the integration of social service, legal, health, mental health, education, and substance abuse agencies and organizations (2003). Also stated by Congress, the issue requires properly trained support staff with specialized knowledge, to carry out their child protection duties; and is sensitive to ethnic and cultural diversity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). The focus of this policy analysis is on a national level.

History and Scope of Issue

It is estimated that 794,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect each year (H.R. Rep No. 111- 378, 2010). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that each year 141,700 children are seriously injured as a result of abuse or neglect, 18,000 are severely disabled, and 1,760 children die as a result of abuse or neglect (H.R. Rep No. 111- 378, 2010). Children six years of age and under accounted for 76 percent of child fatalities, and children under one year of age accounted for 42 percent of child fatalities in 2008.

CAPTA was first enacted during a time period of growing recognition of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect and the demand for federal action (Renzetti, C. M. & Edleson, J. L., 2008). A key catalyst to the public's awareness was the publication in 1961 in the Journal of the American Medical Association of a widely cited article on the battered child syndrome (Renzetti, C. M. & Edleson, J. L., 2008). The article was written by physician, C. Henry Kempe and highlighted the negative consequences of abuse for child development and increased pressure in the medical field to address this issue. Increased pressure in the states to take responsibility for abused children resulted in the passing of some form of child abuse law in every state and the District of Columbia between 1963 and 1967 (Renzetti, C. M. & Edleson, J. L., 2008). By the early 1970s there were growing demands for action by the Federal government. The hearings that lead to the enactment of CAPTA on a national level were held by the Subcommittee on Children and Youth, under the leadership of Senator Walter Mondale, of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare (Renzetti, C. M. & Edleson, J. L., 2008).

The problem of child abuse and neglect impacts millions of American citizens. Victims of child abuse and neglect may show physical and mental effects from infancy that can persist over a lifetime ("CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010...," n.d.). Depression, low self-esteem, behavioral problems and disorders, brain damage, malnourishment, broken bones, and swelling of the brain are examples of the immediate physical effects on victims ("CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010...," n.d.). Families are impacted as they are divided and children are taken into custody of the state for maltreatment. As estimated by Prevent Child Abuse America, the total annual cost of child abuse and neglect in this country is $94 billion ("CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010...," n.d.). Hospitalization, mental healthcare, child welfare, loss of productivity (due to unemployment), juvenile delinquency, and adult criminality are a few examples of the sources of expenses ("CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010...," n.d.).

Funding from CAPTA to states is a Title I basic state grant. The amount of the grant is based on the ratio of children under the age of 18 in the state to the national total number of children under the age 18 (California Department of Social Services. 2011). About $26.5 million is granted each fiscal year. In fiscal year 2012 grants to states ranged from $55,571 to $2,970,342 with an average award of $471,999 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). Grant renewals are made each year as states are required to submit plans and updates which are reviewed at the regional level. The Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner has authority to approve or disapprove grants (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).

The Department of Health and Human Services is involved with the policy in which the secretary establishes the Office on

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