Issue: CAPTA Reauthorization
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is a source of funding for certain court programs and is the primary source of prevention funds for child welfare agencies. The eligibility requirements for states to access these funds have been used to dictate state policy and procedure.
No current position, but state court leaders supported reauthorization the last time the Act was reauthorized
The authorization for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) expired 9/30/08. The 111th Congress will be considering CAPTA reauthorization in 2009.
CAPTA provides discretionary grant funds to public agencies and non-profit providers and formula grants to states for child abuse prevention and treatment programs. The range of projects that can be funded under CAPTA is quite broad. For example, the discretionary funding can be used for developing kinship care programs, visitation centers for court-ordered supervised visitation between abused children and their parents, visitation centers for the safe exchange of children for visits with non-custodial parents in domestic violence cases, and collaborative efforts to identify cases needing intensive supervision. CAPTA also provides competitive grants to states for programs relating to the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases.
In 2008, the National Child Abuse Coalition submitted recommendations to Congress regarding revisions to the CAPTA. Most of their recommendations were non-controversial and would not impact state courts. However, one recommendation was to add a requirement on states to appoint an attorney representing each foster child’s legal interests, in addition to the existing requirement that a guardian ad litem be appointed for each foster child to represent the child’s best interests.
COSCA members were surveyed to determine current state practice related to representation of children. The survey results indicate that the appointment of a second attorney for foster children will have a significant financial impact on the states. Concern about the financial impact on states was conveyed to the National Child Abuse Coalition and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff.
The Senate HELP Committee staff circulated draft reauthorization language in early June 2009. The draft did not include the provision mandating appointment of a second person to provide legal representation. A letter was submitted to HELP Committee leadership on behalf of CCJ/COSCA. APHSA and NCSL also have a concern regarding a new unfunded mandate.
The legislation is on hold until health care reform legislation is resolved. The House is expected to defer action until after legislation is filed in the Senate.