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.
State court leaders support reauthorization the Act, but oppose unfunded mandate.
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 would 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 proposed legal representation provision. A letter was submitted to HELP Committee leadership on behalf of CCJ/COSCA. APHSA and NCSL have also a concern regarding a new unfunded mandate.
On 9/22/10, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 (S 3817). As introduced, S. 3817 does not include the proposed new legal representation requirement. S 3817 was carefully crafted to ensure bi-partisan support.
Congress approved S. 3817 during the lame duck session. The President signed S. 3817 on 12/20/10 making it PL 111-320.
While the final version of CAPTA reauthorization did not include any change to the requirements related to representation, the ABA and others continue to push the idea. It is not yet clear how they will pursue the issue in the future.
Conversations about the reauthorization of CAPTA will begin in 2013 and the issue of legal representation is expected to be raised again.