October 11, 1996
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Child Abuse and Child Welfare Legislation in the
Education and Public Welfare Division
The 104th Congress considered -- and ultimately rejected -- proposals to replace
most existing child abuse and child welfare programs with block grants to states. Child
welfare block grants had been included in various versions of welfare reform, but were
not part of the final legislation signed into law (the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act, P.L. 104-193). Instead, the welfare law made relatively
minor amendments to child welfare programs under the Social Security Act, and
Congress subsequently passed separate legislation to reauthorize the Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (P.L. 104-235). This report describes the freestanding CAPTA reauthorization and the child welfare-related provisions in welfare
reform. The report also briefly discusses the child welfare block grants that were
considered but not enacted.
During the final days of the 104th Congress, the House and Senate passed legislation
to amend and reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act through FY2001
(S. 919). President Clinton signed the bill into law on October 3 (P.L. 104-235). This
legislation was originally reported by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee
in June 1995 (S. Rept. 104-117) and passed by the full Senate in July 1996.
Federal Responsibilities. The CAPTA amendments give the Secretary of Health
and Human Services (HHS) greater discretion in administering child abuse and neglect
programs by repealing the mandatory National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, and
instead allowing the Secretary to establish an Office on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Likewise, the measure allows, instead of requires, the Secretary to establish an Advisory
Board on Child Abuse and Neglect.
P.L. 104-235 creates new requirements with regard to federal data collection,
research and demonstration. For example, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and
Neglect must collect data on false, unfounded, unsubstantiated and substantiated abuse and
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neglect reports, and on deaths due to child abuse or neglect. The Clearinghouse also must
collect universal, case-specific data that can be integrated with case-based foster care and
adoption data. States receiving CAPTA grants are required to submit annual data to HHS
on: reports of abuse or neglect; reports that are substantiated, unsubstantiated, or found
to be false; children that receive or do not receive services, or are removed from home;
families that receive preventive services; children that die as a result of abuse or neglect,
including in foster care; caseworkers responsible for intake and screening; agency response
time in investigating reports of abuse or neglect, and in providing services to families after
reports of abuse or neglect; caseworkers responsible for intake, assessment and
investigation relative to the number of reports investigated; children who are reported for
abuse or neglect, or are killed, after being reunited with their families or receiving family
preservation services; and children who receive court-appointed advocates. The Secretary
must issue an annual report on the data received from states.
The legislation requires HHS to conduct research on: the incidence of substantiated
and unsubstantiated abuse and neglect reports; the number of substantiated cases that lead
to a judicial finding of abuse or neglect or criminal conviction; the extent to which
unsubstantiated or false reports hamper the ability of states to respond to serious cases;
the extent to which inadequate resources and training hamper states in responding to
serious cases; the number of unsubstantiated, unfounded or false reports that result in a
child's placement in substitute care; the extent to which unsubstantiated cases return as
more serious cases of abuse or neglect; child abuse and neglect in substitute care; and
abuse allegations made in the context of divorce, custody or other family court
New demonstrations also are authorized: triage systems for screening and assessing
abuse and neglect reports; kinship care using adult relatives as preferred placements for
children removed from home (in no more than 10 states); and supervised visitation centers
in cases where domestic violence causes ongoing risk to a parent or child.
State Grant Requirements. CAPTA authorizes formula grants to help states
support their child protective services systems. To receive these grants, which are
awarded on the basis of population under age 18, states have been required to meet certain
eligibility provisions and include specified information in their plans. The new law revises
and consolidates these requirements into a single state plan, to be submitted to HHS every
5 years. States must inform HHS whenever they make significant changes in their
In their plans, states must certify that they have procedures for reporting known or
suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, for investigating such cases, and for taking
immediate steps to protect children who might be in danger. The law requires states to
provide immunity from prosecution for individuals who make good faith reports of
suspected abuse or neglect, and to provide confidentiality of records. States also must
have procedures for public disclosure of information about cases of abuse or neglect which
result in a child's death or near-death. State plans must provide for cooperation with law
enforcement officials, courts, and human service agencies, and must provide for the
expungement of records in cases that are found to be false or unsubstantiated. Further,
states must appoint a guardian ad litem, who may be an attorney or a court-appointed
special advocate, to represent children in judicial proceedings.
P.L. 104-235 requires states to establish citizen review panels, composed of volunteer
community representatives, to evaluate state and local child protection activities. States
must designate at least 3 panels (at least 1 in certain small states), which can include
existing entities such as child fatality or foster care review teams. Panels must meet at
least 3 times a year and issue annual reports. The panels must assess the effectiveness of
state and local programs in accordance with state plan requirements and child protection
standards or any other criteria considered important, including the extent to which child
protective services are coordinated with foster care and adoption assistance, and may
review child deaths or near-deaths. States must provide panels with access to information
and staff assistance if requested, although panel members and staff may not disclose any
identifying information about individual cases or other unauthorized information.
Within 2 years of enactment of P.L. 104-235, states must have procedures for
expedited termination of parental rights in any case of an abandoned infant, and must have
procedures for individuals to appeal an official finding of abuse or neglect. Also within 2
years, states must provide that family reunification is not required for a surviving child with
a parent who has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of their
children, or aided or abetted in such murder or manslaughter, or committed a felony
assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to any of their children. States must provide
that conviction of any of these felonies will constitute grounds for termination of parental
rights under state law.
Finally, state plans must provide procedures for responding to medical neglect;
describe services to be provided to prevent the occurrence of child abuse and neglect;
describe training that will be provided to agency personnel and mandated reporters of
abuse or neglect; and provide that activities funded under Title IV-B of the Social Security
Act will comply with CAPTA eligibility requirements.
Community-Based Family Resource and Support. P.L. 104-235 authorizes
community-based family resource and support grants under Title II of CAPTA to replace
several previous programs, including a similar activity under Title II, family support
centers under the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, and temporary child care and crisis
nurseries. Under the new law, federal grants will help establish and operate statewide
networks of community-based, prevention-focused, family resource and support programs
that coordinate a wide variety of resources within each state.
To receive funds, states must designate a lead entity to oversee the statewide
network, which can be an existing public, quasi-public, or private nonprofit agency. States
must submit an application to HHS that describes the lead entity, includes an inventory of
family resource and support programs in the state and a description of unmet needs, and
contains a budget of which at least 20% comes from nonfederal cash resources. Funds are
awarded to states according to a two-part formula: 70% based on population under age
18; and 30% based on the amount of nonfederal funds raised by the state for
administration by the lead entity, as compared to all other states. Of funds appropriated,
1% is reserved for grants to Indian tribes and tribal organizations and migrant programs.
Local programs in the statewide network must provide certain "core" services
directly, such as parent education, outreach, referral and follow-up. Other core services,
including respite care, must be provided through contracts or arrangements with other
local agencies. Programs must provide access to "optional" services, such as adoption
counseling, child care, services for families with disabled children, referral to job readiness
and educational services, self-sufficiency and life management training, community referral
services, and peer counseling. Local programs must involve parents in their operations,
show leadership in mobilizing other resources, and participate with other grantees of the
Authorizations and Appropriations. P.L. 104-235 authorizes $100 million for
Title I of CAPTA in FY1997, and such sums as necessary in FY1998-FY2001. Title I
authorizes federal discretionary activities, and formula grants to states. Of amounts
appropriated for Title I, the new law requires HHS to use 30% for discretionary activities,
and the balance for state grants. Of the amount reserved for discretionary activities, the
law further requires that no more than 40% be used for demonstration projects. In
FY1997 appropriations legislation (P.L. 104-208), Congress has included $21 million for
state grants and $14.2 million for discretionary activities under CAPTA.
For community-based family resource and support grants under Title II of CAPTA,
P.L. 104-235 authorizes $66 million in FY1997, and such sums as necessary in FY1998FY2001. Congress has appropriated $32.8 million for this program in FY1997.
Related Programs. In addition to amending and extending CAPTA, P.L. 104-235
reauthorizes the following through FY2001: adoption opportunities ($20 million in
FY1997, such sums as necessary for FY1998-FY2001); abandoned infants assistance ($35
million in FY1997, such sums as necessary for FY1998-FY2001); and missing children's
assistance (such sums as necessary). The law also authorizes such sums as necessary
through FY2000 for children's advocacy centers and grants to improve the quality of
criminal prosecutions in child abuse cases, under the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Finally,
the new law contains several amendments to the family violence program.
FY1997 appropriations for these related programs are: adoption opportunities -- $13
million; abandoned infants -- $12.3 million; missing children's assistance -- $6 million;
children's advocacy centers -- $2.5 million; grants to improve prosecutions -- $2 million;
and family violence -- $62 million.
CHILD WELFARE AMENDMENTS
The following amendments to child welfare, foster care and adoption assistance
programs under Title IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act were included in the final
version of welfare reform legislation that was signed by President Clinton on August 22,
1996 (P.L. 104-193).
Foster Care Eligibility. Before enactment of the new law, states could be
reimbursed under Title IV-E for the costs of foster care or adoption assistance on behalf
of children whose biological families were eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent
Children (AFDC) (or, in the case of adoption assistance, children who were eligible for
Supplemental Security Income). However, the central feature of the new welfare law
replaces AFDC with a state-administered block grant; thus, foster care eligibility criteria
had to be adjusted to conform to this change. Under P.L. 104-193, foster or adoptive
children will be eligible for Title IV-E subsidies if their families would have been eligible
for AFDC, as in effect in the state on June 1, 1995. This provision takes effect on July 1,
1997. Children eligible for SSI will continue to be eligible for adoption assistance,
although the new welfare law also amends SSI eligibility criteria for children. Foster
children and children receiving adoption assistance will remain eligible for Medicaid.
For-Profit Foster Care Providers. Under Title IV-E, federal reimbursement has
been available for foster care provided by foster families, or public or private nonprofit
institutions. Private for-profit providers have never been eligible for federal reimbursement
under Title IV-E. The new law amends Title IV-E, effective upon enactment, to allow forprofit providers to participate. The conference agreement on the legislation (H.Rept. 104725) notes that "states are responsible for ensuring that children are in safe and reliable
care whether it is provided by public or private entities" and that there is no reason to
"automatically refuse participation by an entire sector of the child caring community."
Enhanced Match for Data Collection. During FY1994-FY1996, states were
eligible for federal reimbursement at an enhanced matching rate (75% federal, instead of
the usual 50% under Title IV-E) for the costs of Statewide Automated Child Welfare
Information Systems (SACWIS). This enhanced rate was scheduled to expire at the end
of FY1996. However, P.L. 104-193 extends the 75% matching rate through the end of
FY1997, so that states can have one additional year to complete their data collection
Child Welfare Study. P.L. 104-193 amends Title IV-B to require HHS to conduct
a national random sample study of children who have been abused or neglected, or who
are at risk of abuse or neglect. The welfare reform law appropriated $6 million for each
year from FY1996 through FY2002 for this study. However, FY1997 appropriations
legislation (P.L. 104-208) rescinded these appropriations for FY1996 and FY1997.
Kinship Care. The new law amends Title IV-E, effective upon enactment, to require
states to consider giving preference to an adult relative over a non-related caregiver when
determining a foster or adoptive placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver
meets all relevant state child protection standards. In a related provision, P.L. 104-193
directs the Census Bureau to collect data, in connection with the decennial and mid-decade
census, on grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.
Interaction with TANF. As stated above, the new welfare law repeals and replaces
AFDC with a block grant to states for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
States will design their own public assistance programs, subject to certain federal
constraints. The law creates no entitlement for individuals to cash assistance and requires
states to deny assistance to certain categories of recipients, including any adult who has
received benefits for more than 2 years and is not engaged in a work activity, and anyone
who has received benefits for more than 60 months in their adult lifetime.
Because foster care will continue as an open-ended entitlement to states under Title
IV-E, the replacement of AFDC with a capped block grant could create an incentive for
states to transfer costs from their cash assistance programs into foster care, where
possible. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) notes that in 1993, approximately
500,000 AFDC children lived in households without a parent. In the future, states could
classify some of these "kinship" households as foster families and pay them foster care
subsidies, if they meet eligibility requirements of Title IV-E. CBO estimates that federal
foster care outlays could increase by $10 million in FY1999 and by $45 million annually
BLOCK GRANT PROPOSALS
Proposals in the 104th Congress to convert child welfare programs into block grants
originated in the House. The original House welfare bill (H.R. 4), passed in March 1995,
would have created a Child Protection Block Grant (CPBG) to states that would have
replaced many existing programs (Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act,
CAPTA, adoption opportunities, abandoned infants, temporary child care and crisis
nurseries, family support centers under the McKinney Act; parts of the Victims of Child
Abuse Act; family unification under the Housing Act; and missing children's assistance).
As welfare reform evolved during the 104th Congress, the child welfare provisions
became less sweeping. For example, the House-Senate conference version of H.R. 4,
which was vetoed by President Clinton, would have created two child welfare-related
block grants: the CPBG to replace Social Security Act programs, and a Child and Family
Services Block Grant to replace CAPTA and related activities. Maintenance payments for
foster children and adoption assistance subsidies were not included in either block grant,
and would have remained open-ended entitlements as under current law. Under the next
House version of welfare reform (H.R. 3734), administrative and training costs related to
foster care and adoption assistance also were removed from the block grant, as were
independent living services for older foster children. Ultimately, all child welfare block
grant provisions were dropped from the bill, which was enacted as P.L. 104-193.
Proponents of child welfare block grants argued that consolidation of categorical
programs and elimination of federal mandates could have allowed states to design more
comprehensive service systems for vulnerable children and families, without the constraints
of funding sources tied to specific services. States would have been required to maintain
the key features of a child protection system -- such as mandatory abuse and neglect
reporting and investigation, foster care, and permanency planning for foster children -- but
without the existing funding structure and regulations, which were characterized as
cumbersome. Accountability would have been assured through audits and penalties, data
collection and reporting, and, in the original House-passed H.R. 4, citizen review panels
that would have allowed the public to assess the adequacy of child protection programs.
Opponents argued that by enacting block grants, the federal government would have
abdicated its leadership role in the area of child protection, which is an issue of national
concern. While the legislation would have required states to certify that their programs
contained certain features, the federal government would have had limited enforcement
authority. With no earmarked funds for preventive and supportive services for families,
the ongoing demand to investigate abuse and neglect reports and remove children from
unsafe homes would have left few resources available for states to pursue less crisis-driven
activities. By eliminating federal mandates, the proposal would have limited the ability of
abused and neglected children to seek protection in the federal courts. Block grants also
were seen as a first step toward reductions in federal spending for child welfare activities.
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