On December 20, President Obama signed the long-awaited reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). This legislation is especially significant for us, as it mandates that a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed in any case alleging child abuse or neglect. The bill also specifies that CASA volunteers are qualified and trained to serve as GALs for these children.
The new authorization was passed with bipartisan support. Among the new features included in the latest authorization is a provision that GAL training should include early childhood, childhood and adolescent development. National CASA’s standardized volunteer training curriculum already includes these topics. The legislation also notes the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse, calling for the adoption of procedures aimed at “enhancing the safety both of children and the victims of domestic violence.” Other provisions call for collaboration between child protective services and domestic violence services.
Another feature of the new legislation is a call for more research into differential responses to child protection. The term differential response simply means that child protective services can find alternate ways of protecting children rather than removing them from the home. By addressing issues such as lack of parenting skills, mental health concerns, substance abuse issues and work/daycare challenges, child protective services can improve a child’s safety while keeping the family intact.
We are grateful for the support of two legislators in particular for their efforts in passing the CAPTA reauthorization. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who retires this week after 20 years in the Senate, has led the effort to reauthorize CAPTA for the last two years and was determined to see the legislation completed before his retirement. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over CAPTA. Rep. Miller has been a strong supporter of CAPTA protections for children since the legislation was first enacted.
To learn more about CAPTA and other federal legislation affecting children, visit the public policy section of our website.