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US Capitol Building at sunset with American flags. Discover the bills introduced in 2021 to strengthen child abuse laws.

Bipartisan efforts to strengthen the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and other related bills were introduced in 2021 as representatives from both parties seek to end the epidemic of child abuse and neglect in the U.S.

Here are the bills introduced in 2021 to protect children:

H.R. 485: Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

Introduced by Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]
Passed House (03/16/2021)

H.R. 485 reauthorizes through FY2027 and revises the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978 to expand services for preventing and treating child abuse.

The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish uniform national standards for tracking and reporting child fatalities and near fatalities resulting from maltreatment, and develop an electronic interstate data exchange system that allows states to share information from their child abuse and neglect registries with other states.

The bill also addresses child abuse and neglect related to families impacted by substance use disorders, racial bias in the child protective services system, and child sexual abuse.
The bill also revises the community-based grants program to emphasize access to effective services for diverse populations and to promote the development of statewide strategies to scale up family strengthening services.

Finally, the bill requires HHS to examine unregulated custody transfers and make recommendations for preventing, identifying, and responding to such transfers.

National Child Abuse Hotline

H.R. 566: Introduced by Rep. McBath, Lucy [D-GA-6]
Introduced in House (01/28/2021)

S.886: Introduced by Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]
Introduced in Senate (03/22/2021)

The National Child Abuse Hotline bill provides for a grant to establish and operate a national hotline that makes available assistance and information services 24 hours a day to victims of child abuse or neglect, their families, caregivers, and individuals required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

The Department of Health and Human Services may award the grant to a nonprofit entity and must prioritize grant applicants with experience operating a hotline and providing such assistance and support.

Note: To maximize the chance of success of a bill passing, the House and Senate may introduce “companion” bills, or matching bills. If the two chambers pass a matching companion bill, it is sent directly to the president for a signature or veto.

H.R. 573: Family Poverty is Not Child Neglect Act

Introduced by Rep. Moore, Gwen [D-WI-4]
Introduced in House (01/28/2021)

H.R. 573 requires states receiving grants for child protective services systems to ensure that such systems are not used to separate a child from the child's parent for reasons of poverty.

It amends Section 106(a) of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

  • paragraph (1), by striking "neglect;" and inserting "neglect, ensuring that reports concerning a child's living arrangements or subsistence needs are addressed through services and benefits and that no child is separated from the child's parent for reasons of poverty;"; and
  • paragraph (4), by striking "response;" and inserting "response, except that such system, tools, and protocols shall not authorize the separation of any child from the child's parent or guardian on the basis of poverty;".

H.R. 879: Grants for Infants Affected by Substance Use Disorder

Introduced by Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]
Introduced in House (02/05/2021)

H.R.879  amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act with respect to infants born with and identified as being affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and for other purposes.

The bill requires states receiving grants for child abuse or neglect prevention and treatment to conduct family assessments and use a risk-based approach in addressing the needs of families with infants born with, and identified as being affected by, substance use or withdrawal symptoms, or related conditions.

Further, the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children & Families must provide guidance and technical assistance with respect to these requirements.

H.R. 995: Reducing Child Abuse & Neglect Resulting from Substance Use Disorder

Introduced by Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10]
Introduced in House (02/11/2021)

H.R.995 permits the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children & Families to provide grants for programs that reduce child abuse and neglect resulting from the substance use disorder of a parent or caregiver.

The bill amends Section 105(a) of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants for purposes of reducing child abuse and neglect due to the substance use disorder of a parent or caregiver.

Safe Home Act of 2021

H.R.1247: Introduced by Rep. Langevin, James R. [D-RI-2]
Introduced in House (02/23/2021)

 S.397: Introduced by Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]
Introduced in Senate (02/23/2021)

The Safe Home Act of 2021 amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to include an act of unregulated custody transfer in the definition of child abuse and neglect, and for other purposes.

This bill makes unregulated custody transfers a form of child abuse and neglect under federal child-welfare law. Specifically, an unregulated custody transfer occurs when a child is placed with a non-relative or otherwise unfamiliar adult, with the intention of severing the parental or guardian relationship with the child, without reasonably ensuring the child's safety, and without legally transferring parental or guardian rights.

The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to (1) report on the causes, effects, and prevalence of unregulated custody transfers; (2) develop policy recommendations for preventing such transfers; and (3) issue guidance to the states.

Note: To maximize the chance of success of a bill passing, the House and Senate may introduce "companion" bills, or matching bills. If the two chambers pass a matching companion bill, it is sent directly to the president for a signature or veto.

H.R. 1566: American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

Introduced by Rep. Grijalva, Raúl M. [D-AZ-3]
Introduced in House (03/03/2021)

This Act may be cited as the "American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act" or the "AI/AN CAPTA".

H.R.1566 amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require that equitable distribution of assistance include equitable distribution to Indian tribes and tribal organizations and to increase amounts reserved for allotment to Indian tribes and tribal organizations under certain circumstances, and to provide for a Government Accountability Office report on child abuse and neglect in American Indian tribal communities.

This bill establishes additional resources to assist tribal communities with preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. It requires the Government Accountability Office to report on child abuse and neglect in tribal communities for the purpose of making recommendations to Congress regarding these issues.

Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services must include Indian tribes and tribal organizations in its equitable distribution of assistance for programs and projects related to child abuse prevention and treatment.

H.R. 1606: End Forced Child Marriages Act

Introduced by Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3]
Introduced in House (03/08/2021)

H.R.1606 requires the Department of Health and Human Services to study and report on state laws regarding the minimum marriage age and the prevalence of marriage involving a child who is under the minimum marriage age.

This bill amends section 110 of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act by adding a Study And Report On Marital Age Of Consent. It calls for The Secretary to study and report on:

  • each state's minimum marriage age
  • the prevalence of marriage involving a child under the minimum age
  • factors contributing to exceptions to the laws
  • whether such exceptions allow a child to be married without the consent of such child
  • the impact on the safety of children when these exceptions occur

H.R. 1658: Amends CAPTA to Promote High-Quality Child Welfare Workforce

Introduced by Rep. Sherrill, Mikie [D-NJ-11]
Introduced in House (03/08/2021)

H.R.1658 amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to promote a high-quality workforce in the child welfare system.

This bill permits the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children & Families to provide grants for programs that support a high-quality workforce to prevent, identify, and treat child abuse and neglect. It includes:
improvements to recruitment, support, or retention efforts; or
education for professionals and paraprofessionals in the prevention, identification, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

H.R. 1666: Working to End Child Abuse and Neglect Act (WE CAN Act)

Introduced by Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]
Introduced in House (03/08/2021)

H.R.1666 amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require a study and report on State mandatory reporting laws.

This bill requires the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect to study and report on state laws that require certain individuals to report child abuse and neglect. The required analysis must include trends based on a state's inclusion under such laws of health care workers, teachers, law enforcement personnel, clergy, childcare workers, and social services workers.

H.R. 1713: Amends CAPTA to Study & Report on Adoption Outcomes

Introduced by Rep. Smucker, Lloyd [R-PA-11]
Introduced in House (03/09/2021)

H.R.1713 requires the Department of Health and Human Services to study and report on adoption outcomes and the factors, including parental substance use disorder, affecting such outcomes.

It amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978 to require a study and report on adoption outcomes and the factors affecting those outcomes, and for other purposes.

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